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For Immediate Release

Pittsburgh Poison Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Warns About Increase of Inhalant Abuse Among U.S. Teens

Latest government report says more than 1 million adolescents nationwide admitted huffing

Inhaling toxic fumes, a practice known as huffing, is an increasingly popular form of substance abuse among adolescents that can have severe and sometimes fatal consequences, according to experts at the Pittsburgh Poison Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Spray paint, gasoline, glue and shoe polish are among the most commonly abused substances, said Edward P. Krenzelok, PharmD, director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center (PPC) at Children's. Adolescents who abuse inhalants are more likely to be male and live in rural areas, according to research conducted by the PPC.

Nearly 9 percent of 12- and 13-year-olds surveyed in 2002 and 2003 had used inhalants in their lifetime, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health released this month. The survey showed that more youths ages 12 and 13 had used inhalants than marijuana. During National Inhalants & Poisons Awareness Week, March 20-26, Children's experts want to educate parents about the risks and warning signs inhalant abuse.

"While our research shows that the incidence of huffing typically peaks between the ages of 12 and 17, there is evidence that even preschoolers have engaged in huffing, most likely because they were imitating an older sibling or neighbor," Dr. Krenzelok said. "Parents should be aware that this problem exists and be cognizant of the warning signs."

The health effects of huffing inhalants can include neurological damage, seizures, nausea and vomiting, behavioral problems, chemical burns, liver and kidney damage and death.

Physical signs of huffing include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Spots or sores around the mouth or nose
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Drunk or dizzy appearance
  • Anxiety and/or irritability
  • Red or runny eyes or nose
  • Drowsiness or fatigue

For a downloadable brochure on inhalant abuse, visit the Children's Web site at and scroll down to the brochure titled: "Inhalants: Not a Fad - a Deadly Fact."

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5016,

Last Update
February 19, 2008
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Last Update
February 19, 2008