Watch CBSN Live

Inhalant Abuse By Kids Targeted

The government launched a campaign Tuesday to fight the growing problem of inhalant abuse among the nation's children. CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.

Kids call it "huffing" or "sniffing," and more American children are said to be doing it. Sniffing is the intentional inhalation of common products found in homes and schools, to get high.

More than 1,000 items on the market can be abused in that way -- products like nail polish remover, glue, and hair spray. Sniffing has become the fourth most common form of abuse among high school students, behind alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Office of National Drug Control Policy released an educational video Tuesday to warn parents of the problem. The video encourages adults to speak to their children about the dangers of inhalant abuse.

America's drug policy chief, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, says the rising numbers should sound an alarm in households across America. "We know that one out of five American youngsters has huffed or sniffed some solvent or inhalant product," McCaffrey said.

The numbers have jumped in recent years, the drug control office reports. In 1991, an estimated 380,000 children tried inhalants, compared to 805,000 in 1997.

Interestingly enough, even though as many as 20 percent of America's kids have abused inhalants, most parents surveyed say they don't think their kids would ever try it.

It is an unusual drug problem to tackle, McCaffrey explained at a press conference Tuesday.

"There is nothing we can do about inhalant abuse with the police. They can't interdict gasoline and paint thinner," McCaffrey said.

"This boils down to one of the drugs that can only be confronted by prevention," he added.

Inhalants can kill even first-time users, drug experts say.

Parents should watch out for the following inhalant abuse symptoms:

  • Unusual breath odor
  • chemical smell
  • paint around mouth
  • excitability and restlessness

Dr. Richard Heiss, whose son Wade died from inhalant abuse, told reporters about his son's tragic deterioration.

"This is an epidemic of ignorance," Heiss said, adding that the problem "can be prevented by education."

Reported by Sharyl Attkisson

View CBS News In