"Once kids start using inhalants, they are more susceptible to using other drugs like marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine as they age," Clark said. "Inhalants can produce psychological effects, but because they're readily accessible they are substitutes for other drugs."
Among teens aged 12 to 17, 20.9 percent used illegal drugs in the past year.
Among adolescents aged 12 to 13 who used illegal drugs, 45.5 percent used inhalants, while 36.5 percent used painkillers, 28.4 percent used marijuana, and 9.8 percent used other drugs, the report found.
However, among 14- and 15-year-olds who used drugs, 25.1 percent used inhalants, 34.2 percent used painkillers, 66.2 percent used marijuana, and 26.3 percent used other illegal drugs.
For 16- and 17-year-olds who used drugs, 12.4 percent use inhalants and 35.2 percent used painkillers, while 81.4 percent used marijuana and 34.2 percent used other illegal drugs, according to the report.
Forty-five percent of teens who used inhalants suffer from psychiatric disorders, compared with 29 percent of teens who used other drugs.
Although only 8 percent of people treated for drug abuse in 2006 were 12 to 17 years old, they represented 48 percent of hospital treatment for inhalant use alone or in combination with other drugs.
Adolescent girls seem particularly vulnerable to inhalant abuse. According to the report, 41 percent of hospital admissions for inhalant abuse involved teenage girls, whereas only 30 percent of hospital admissions for non-inhalant drug abuse involved teen girls.
Among 17-year-olds, 59.3 percent of new inhalant users move on to nitrous oxide (laughing gas), also called whippets.
"One teen we talked with abused nitrous oxide to the point where she had metabolic dysfunction, vitamin B12 deficiency, loss of coordination and loss of concentration, and had to be hospitalized," Clark sa
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