To launch National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week, the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, with support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), held a press conference to focus on inhalant use and efforts by the medical profession to educate physicians. The widely-attended event brought together media, federal agencies, and those personally affected to bring attention this important issue.
Pamela Hyde, SAMHSA Administrator, spoke poignantly about the recent upticks in drug use as a recent study showed a regression in adolescent attitudes about drug use. This trend, which is a harbinger of future drug use, is magnified when discussing inhalant abuse because many teens don’t think it is a ‘real’ drug. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, attitudes about drug abuse were have tumbled to 58% from 75% in earlier surveys.
Ms. Hyde noted that inhalant accessibility and ignorance about side effects contribute to the problem. Among 12-year olds nationwide inhalants are the drug of choice. Currently, alcohol is the only substance with higher user rates than inhalants.
Dr. Jennifer Caudle, of the American Osteopathic Association, intimated inhalant abuse is affecting the medical community as medical professionals have access to commonly abused gases, such as nitrous oxide. Additionally, there is little formal training about recognizing inhalant abuse allowing cases to go undiagnosed. In response, Dr. Caudle and the AOA are helping to create a support system and dialogue among medical practitioners to illuminate that areas need improvement.
The last two speakers shared personal accounts of how inhalant abuse affected their lives. Ashley, 17, and Kevin, a parent who lost his daughter to inhalants, offered poignant and intertwined reflections. The two are now learning how to live new lives of recovery and loss respectively.
We would especially like to thank Harvey Weiss, Executive Director of NIPC for organizing this annual event as it is emblematic of his steadfast efforts to combat inhalant abuse.