Become aware of the problem. Educate yourself and others about inhalant abuse including what types of products can be abused and the signs of abuse.
Make sure students are getting the message about the dangers of all substance abuse and inhalant abuse. The main prevention message is that inhalants are poisons and are dangerous like other poisons. Care should be taken to avoid advertising what products can be abused or how they can be abused. Inhalant abuse prevention activities should be included in classes along with alcohol and other drug prevention activities. Another approach is Peer Education Programs, where youth teach other youth health information and behaviors. Prevention activities should begin in elementary school since use may begin in third or fourth grade and peaks in ninth grade.
Don't use products that can be easily abused. These include typewriter correction fluids, glues made with solvents, and dry erase and permanent markers. Instead look for water-based versions of these products.
Be aware of how much of an item is being used. If solvent based products are used, they should be used under close adult supervision. These include spray paints, solvent based glues, gasoline, paint thinners, and many products packaged in aerosol cans. Many abusable solvent-based products are found in art, shop, cosmetology, science, and culinary arts classrooms. If it seems like too much is being used, ask questions and monitor the situation closely.
If you are suspicious about a child's behavior, be sure to follow up. Ask them about inhalants and be specific about why you are suspicious. Don't dismiss your gut feelings that something is not right. Remember, one of the attractions of inhalants is that adults are not suspicious of it and don't recognize use. If you have questions about a substance, call the Regional Center for Poison Control and Prevention Serving Massachusetts and Rhode Island at 1-800-222-1222.
Don't tolerate any experimentation. Remember even limited use can be fatal. Seek an alcohol and drug assessment and take appropriate action. Even if it turns out to be a false alarm, your action sends a clear message about your expectations.
For more information: Contact your local Massachusetts Regional Center for Healthy Communities (for a location near you, call 1-800-327-5050) or the Massachusetts Inhalant Abuse Task Force at 617-624-5140 (or visit our web site at www.state.ma.us/dph/inhalant).
March 12, 2003