What is being used : Inhalants include fuels, solvents, solvent-based products, certain gases, and products packaged in aerosol cans.
Patterns of use: There are many patterns of inhalant abuse. These patterns vary across the Commonwealth and by age, sex, and race/ethnicity. For some children, this is not just experimentation but an addiction. Use may start as early as the third grade. Younger children may just use inhalants while older youth are more likely to use inhalants with alcohol and other drugs.
Facts about inhalant abuse among Massachusetts public high school students: (1)
- Overall lifetime rate for Massachusetts Public High schools (2001): 12.4%
- Boston rate 6.1%
- National rate 14.7%
- Lifetime rate has dropped from 19.2% (1995) to 12.4% in Massachusetts (2001)
(statistically significant decrease, p<.05)
- The most frequently used drugs in Massachusetts are:
- Alcohol - 81.2%
- Cigarettes - 61.9
- Marijuana - 50.4
- Other* - 16.4
- MDMA (ecstasy) - 13.3
- Inhalants - 12.4
- Cocaine - 8.3
- Methamphetamine - 7.0
- Steroids - 4.8
- Heroin - 3.0
- Lifetime inhalant use by race
- White - 13.5%
- Hispanic - 10.0
- Black - 5.8
- Asian - 9.4
*"Other" includes Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, and multiethnic but not Hispanic.
Statistically significant differences between groups, p<.01
- Lifetime inhalant use by sex
- Males - 13.3%
- Females - 11.5
- Lifetime use by grade
- 9 th - 14.1%
- 10 th - 10.5
- 11 th - 13.3
- 12 th - 11.1
- Lifetime use by size of community
- Urban - 11.2%
- Suburban - 12.6
- Rural - 18.1
What Massachusetts adolescents say they like about inhalants:
In a Massachusetts study, experienced drug users talked about what attracted them to inhalants: (2)
Users liked the "trippy" feeling of the high. They likened it to acid and other hallucinogens. One woman described her use of an aerosol tire repair product, as an "industrial high": "When you smoke pot, you relax. When you do an industrial high, you get all the noises going in your head. It's sort of like going insane."
They are readily available:
Teens, especially teens experienced with alcohol and other drugs, were very aware of how to obtain inhalants. They knew they were in their homes, and mentioned hardware stores, convenience stores, drug stores, and art, graphic arts, and shop classes as places to obtain inhalants. Drug stores were especially seen as good sources of supply:
"It's ten times easier to get. Just walk into a (names a drug store chain), stick it in your pocket and walk out. There you go! . . . Inhalants are easier to get than anything else. It's easier to get an inhalant than it is to buy a bag of pot, and they are ten times deadlier."
They don't arouse suspicion: "It's easy to get. You don't need no ID. You just go in the store and buy it. Drug stores, hardware stores. [Interviewer: "Do they ever ask what you need it for?"] They don't ask you, they just figure you need it. Nobody is thinking they get high off this stuff."
"People, their parents, won't know 'cause they got it right underneath their noses. It's not like they are bringing something in the house because it's already in the house."
They are incorrectly assumed to be legal: "Some people want to do it (drugs) in their houses. But if their parents find weed or something, they'll kill them. Glue, it's always around the house. "You can't get arrested for carrying it. You could just have it in your pocket."
They are free or inexpensive: ". . . The only time I would really use them is if I really didn't have anything else . . . because I knew how much they would screw up your brain. Not that other drugs don't screw up your brain or melt brain cells. I know that they can really screw up your mind and (you can) die real easy from them. So the only time I would do it or think about doing it is if I didn't have money for any other drug because this stuff is practically free. . . . The only time I would pay for an inhalant would be nitrous oxide like at a concert or something."
They take effect quickly: "When it first hits you, you sort of sit there for a second. But as it's going on, you go like . . . wow. And then it's over."
"It only takes two seconds to get high, marijuana takes a while."
1. "2001Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results," Massachusetts Department of Education, September 2002.
2. "Report on Inhalant Abuse Focus Group Project," Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 1995.
3. While these products are legal to possess and use for their intended purpose, it is illegal in Massachusetts to possess, buy, sell or use these products for the purpose of causing intoxication (Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 270, Section 18).
This information is provided by the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services within the Department of Public Health.