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NIDA Res Monogr. 1988;85:172-203.

Social and psychological factors underlying inhalant abuse.

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Psychology Department, Colorado State University, Fort Collins 80523.


There are three distinct types of inhalant users: young inhalant users, adolescent polydrug users, and inhalant-dependent adults. Young inhalant users have a modal age of 12 to 13. They use inhalants and may also use alcohol and marijuana. They are likely to have more emotional problems than nondrug users or young marijuana users. These problems, particularly when they involve feelings of anger and alienation, increase the chances that they will identify with other youth who have similar feelings. When this happens, young people form peer clusters; they find a best friend or form a small gang that has a high potential for getting involved with drugs. Most of these peer clusters use inhalants only a few times a month, although some may become obsessed with inhalant use to the exclusion of nearly all other activities. The data showing that young inhalant users have more emotional problems than either nondrug users or young marijuana users suggest that treatment should involve therapy as well as drug avoidance approaches. Every youth caught using inhalants, however, should not automatically be sent for therapy. Sometimes a youth caught using a drug is not really drug involved and overreaction can be damaging. In addition, the emotional problems of all young inhalant users are not identical. A higher average level of emotional problems only means that some of the young inhalant users have those problems, not all of them. Older adolescents, including those who used inhalants earlier, are not likely to use inhalants. Since young inhalant users seem to be troubled youth, have shown an early penchant for drug use, and have drug-using associates, it seem unlikely that they quit using drugs. They probably move on to other drugs, leaving inhalants behind. The older adolescents who do use inhalants are adolescent polydrug users, with a modal age of around 15 to 16. They take many different drugs, and some of them use inhalants as well. The adolescents who use inhalants are probably using a wider range of drugs than other adolescents and are probably getting high more often. Furthermore, they are likely to be more deviant and may be involved in more aggression and more crime. Inhalant-dependent adults usually have a long history of alcohol and other drug involvement. At some point, inhalants have become their preferred drug. By that time, they are usually in their midtwenties to early thirties. They have serious problems.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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