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NIPC Quartly Newletter
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ViewPoint is the quarterly newsletter of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition. The publication was created to help community groups, businesses, schools, volunteers, media and prevention organizations learn about inhalant abuse. Subscriptions to ViewPoint are free. To subscribe, contact Meghan Griffiths at 1201 W. Sixth Street, Suite C-200, Austin Texas 78703. You may also call 1-800-269-4237 or e-mail NIPC to subscribe.

Selected Articles

People Making a Difference: Fires Ignite Prevention -- Tragedies Inspire Dayton and Hyannis to Raise Inhalant Awareness - Spring 1997 ViewPoint

Helium: Not a Laughing Matter - Spring 1997 ViewPoint

Surveys Show Inhalants Continue to Rise - Fall 1996 ViewPoint

National Inhalants & Poisons Awareness Week 1997 - Fall 1996 ViewPoint

Austin Group Stages Rally to Alert Community About Octane Booster - Fall/Winter 1994 ViewPoint

TCADA Report Cites Inhalant Deaths - Fall 1994 ViewPoint

National PTA Adopts Inhalant Resolution - Summer 1994 ViewPoint

Inhalant Deaths Often Undetected - Summer 1994 ViewPoint

Inhalant Abuse in Complex Spurs Call for Help - Spring 1994 ViewPoint

British Solvent Abuse Parallels Inhalant Use in Texas - Winter 1993 ViewPoint

National Inhalant Prevention Coalition Forms - Summer 1993 ViewPoint

Subscribe to ViewPoint today!

Summer 1997 Articles:

Making a Difference: Inhalant Treatment Facility Helps Kickapoo Tribe Fight Inhalant Addiction

Poison Center Notes Early Childhood Inhalant Use

Nitrous Oxide - Signs & Symptoms

Inhalant Testing Raises Questions & Concerns

1997 NIPAW Nationwide Events

Letters to NIPC

NIPC Partners & Benefactors

News Briefs: CADCA Announces National Leadership Forum; Press Conference Marks New Inhalant PSA & Survey

A Comment: NIPC -- What's Our Story


 

People Making a Difference :
Fires Ignite Prevention - Tragedies Inspire
Dayton and Hyannis to Raise Inhalant Awareness

Source: Spring 1997 ViewPoint

When flames ripped through an East Dayton home of three huffers, toluene and other paints in the apartment helped ignite a blaze that quickly went beyond control. Perhaps the outcome of the July 1996 fire would not have been lethal if the three victims, all in their mid-30s, had not been under the influence of toluene, a powerful industrial solvent used in paints and adhesives and often misused to get high. Perhaps they would have had the wherewithal to escape.

 

Dayton Fire & Inhalant Death Calls Community to Action

While the outcome of the fire was tragic, the fatalities have propelled the Dayton community to work towards a solution to the problem of inhalant abuse. One Ohio State Senator, in particular, organized a community response to the tragedy. Sen. Rhine McLin, from the East Dayton area, initiated an outdoor billboard campaign that has been underwritten by Key-Ads, Inc., a local advertising firm. Lamarr Outdoor Advertising also posted inhalant awareness billboards in the Dayton area.

"Once my awareness of the problem was raised, I wanted to organize local experts in the field of drug treatment and education so they could get an inhalant abuse education and prevention campaign started," McLin reported. McLin sent letters to local experts requesting they meet and develop a community action plan and also contacted NIPAW Partner Earl Siegel, University of Cincinnati Medical Center associate professor of emergency medicine, for information. "It was a way for me to reach out to my urban Appalachian constituents while also working towards a solution to this grave threat to our young people," she added.

In February, the first ten billboards featuring anti-sniffing messages and the NIPC "800" number went up around Dayton. Ten more billboards will appear throughout the year as space becomes available, said Key-Ads representative Karen Birkhold, the company that underwrote the ad campaign and furnished artwork, design and billboard space.

McLin and Key-Ads consulted with NIPC prior to putting up the billboards which resulted in a number of phone inquiries requesting inhalant information. "We'd like to do something to educate the public," Birkhold added. The company donated their services following McLin's compelling letter requesting their help.

In addition to coverage of the apartment fire by the Dayton Daily News, Ohioans have garnered national attention from a May 1996 Reader's Digest article on the sniffing death of a Tipp City 12-year-old boy who died from huffing solvents, a practice he learned from schoolmates. After his death, his parents reported that they had no idea what warning signs to look for, and their son had no idea that the solvents he was inhaling could kill him. The article, which listed NIPC's "800" number has resulted in thousands of calls from concerned parents and substance abuse professionals seeking more information on inhalants.

Since the tragic deaths, McLin's community response initiative has resulted in the airing of radio and television public service announcements, meetings with community coalitions for a call to action and organizations involved are currently looking to solicit area businesses to restrict the sale of inhalants.

 

Hyannis Homeless Shelter Blaze Alerts Community to Huffing Problem

The fire in Dayton was not an isolated incident. The chemicals in inhalants have been the cause of other tragic fires that have opened communities' eyes to inhalant use.

On November 24, the CHAMP House, a youth homeless shelter in Hyannis, Massachusetts, was destroyed by a massive blaze that started when two residents inhaled propane and lit a cigarette. Both boys suffered injuries. While the seventeen-year-old recovered shortly after the fire, the nineteen-year-old suffered burns over 45 percent of his body. As of early March, he was still in the hospital and expected to be released soon to a residential drug treatment program.

Like Dayton, the fire has alerted the community to inhalants. "This really brought it home," said Thomas Fagan, an intern at the CHAMP House who is now bringing National Inhalants & Poisons Awareness Week (NIPAW) to the area. "Inhalant abuse is never mentioned [in the drug prevention field], but, as the literature says, it's right under our nose."

Fagan and others from the CHAMP House have started a program called Project Air to coincide with NIPAW. The Hyannis medical community, schools, fire and police department are using materials donated from NIPC. The coalition has distributed brochures to all medical doctors in the county and distributed the NIPC pledge against inhalants to area middle school students. The coalition will also be talking to middle schools about inhalants, and the Hyannis fire lieutenant has designed a label to be placed on all propane tanks in the area.

"We want to thank NIPC for the materials they sent us. It's really done a lot for the community," Fagan added. Fortunately, no one was killed in the CHAMP House fire, and support from the community has brought in over $100,000 for the shelter to rebuild in a former nursing home.

Articles in the Cape Cod Times also alerted the community to what can happen when common, everyday products are misused to get high. An interview with NIPC Executive Director Harvey Weiss resulted in phone calls from area residents who wanted to learn more about inhalant use.

Despite the unfortunate circumstances, both Dayton and Hyannis have used their tragedies to raise inhalant awareness.

For information on the Dayton program, contact Legislative Aide Amanda Dime-Gamble in Sen. McLin's office at 614-466-6247. Fagan can be reached at the CHAMP House at 508-771-0885.

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Helium: Not a Laughing Matter

Source: Spring 1997 ViewPoint

While toxicity related to helium use is low, using helium for more than just blowing up party balloons is not a laughing matter. Parents often set a poor example when they inhale helium to "talk like Donald Duck" or allow their kids to experiment with helium gas to have fun at a party. Misuse of gases by role models is not only dangerous to their bodies, it can lead to further abuse of inhalants by their children.

The September 1996 Annals of Emergency Medicine reported that inhaling helium has resulted in seizure and lung damage. In one such instance, a 13-year-old boy became unconscious and had a ten-minute seizure after inhaling helium from a pressurized tank at a party.

Physicians discovered that the boy had a cerebral gas embolism, in addition to lung damage caused by uncontrollable lung expansion. The boy recovered after several sessions in a hyperbaric chamber.

"Inhaling this gas changes the way vibrations come through the voice box," said Dr. Earl Siegel, associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. "Sometimes people, as a party game or in jest, deliberately inhale helium into their lungs, and it has activity on the voice box that makes them talk like Donald Duck."

"Serious cases are rare and mostly related to the mechanical damage of introducing a highly compressed gas into your lungs," Siegel said. However, he pointed out that it is best not to set a poor precedent for children to follow. "Promoting any practice that encourages the unnecessary introduction of chemicals into our bodies is unwise. I think we can quack like a duck without helium."

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Surveys Show Inhalants Continue to Rise

Source: Fall 1996 ViewPoint

"More than 1 million youth tried inhalants last year, and an estimated 660,000 users tried inhalants for the first time in 1994, up from 428,000 in 1991." -- SAMSHA

New statistics from the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMSHA) "1995 Household Survey" indicate that inhalant use continues to rise at an alarming rate; a 1995 National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) "Monitoring the Future" Survey also shows a similar trend in the nation's schools.

More than 1 million youth tried inhalants last year, according to the SAMSHA study. There also were an estimated 660,000 users who tried inhalants for the first time in 1994, up from 428,000 in 1991. In their lifetime, more than 12 million people ages 12 and older have tried huffing correction fluid, glue, gasoline, spray paint and a myriad of other dangerous products that potentially cause brain damage or even death.

While few parents and teachers ever consider themselves drug-pushers, they are unfortunately learning that inhalants are right under their nose. Young people can get high on more than 1,000 legal, useful, everyday products. Many of the products are right under the kitchen sink, in the garage and in the classroom. The popularity of inhalants as the "drug of choice" of the nineties is only increasing. SAMSHA indicates that the rate of first use among youth ages 12 - 17 rose significantly from 1991 to 1994, from 11.2 to 22.2 per 1,000.

NIDA statistics show equally grave findings. Between 1994 and 1995, lifetime inhalant use for 8th graders increased from 19.9 percent to 21.6; 18 percent to 19 for 10th graders; and, dropped from 17.7 percent to 17.4 for 12th graders. Statistics for upper grade level usage remain inconclusive as many chronic inhalant abusers drop out of high school by the 12th grade, and, therefore, are not included in the study.

Since 1991, the dangerous trend is even more apparent. Lifetime inhalant usage has shot up from 17.6 percent of 8th graders using inhalants to 21.6; 15.7 percent of 10th graders to 19; and, 17.6 percent of 12th graders to 17.4.

Who are the inhalant users? Contrary to stereotypes, they are not poor, inner-city minorities. According to SAMSHA, users are predominately white males, ages 12 and older. The use of inhalants is popular in peer groups, and considered a gateway drug to further substance abuse. The epidemic is spreading nationwide, and increasing throughout both rural and urban America, with the heaviest concentration of inhalant abuse in rural counties.

Why do inhalants surpass other more well known drugs as the rage of the nineties? Simple. They are cheap, available and legal to buy. Young people, parents and teachers have all been warned to be on the lookout for alcohol, tobacco and other drugs but few know the fatal consequences of sniffing chemicals in correction fluid, markers, spray paint and lighter fluid. As many parents say after they have lost a child to inhalants, they just didn't know that inhalants were something to add to the list of worries.

How can you fight the problem? Prevention through education. After significant prevention efforts, studies in Texas indicated a greater than 20 percent decrease in the number of high school students who ever used inhalants and an over 30 percent decrease for elementary students from 1992 to 1994. These statistics are staggering considering that this decline occurred following years of increasing usage. This successful anti-inhalant campaign involved media, retailers, schools and prevention organizations. When funding was eliminated for state-wide inhalant prevention efforts in 1995, Texas inhalant usage started creeping up again. Clearly, there is a relationship between prevention and education. Without such programs, expect usage to continue to rise.

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NIPAW 1997

Source: Fall 1996 ViewPoint

Prevention through education works. As recent studies indicate that inhalant abuse continues to rise, the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition is gearing up for the fourth annual National Inhalants & Poisons Awareness Week (NIPAW), March 16 - 23, 1997. NIPAW is a media-based community level education and awareness effort designed to increase understanding about the use and risks of inhalant involvement. It has proven to be an effective means of mobilizing communities to reduce inhalant use. More than 1,000 organizations from every state participated in the last NIPAW campaign.

Who should join? NIPAW Partners have included sponsors from state government agencies (education, health, alcohol & drug, etc.), state associations such as retailers, medical and pharmacy groups, state alliances of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, local anti-drug coalitions, community and regional drug and alcohol councils, police departments and DARE officers, district attorneys, scout troops, firefighters, the National Guard, PTO/PTA chapters, faith communities, civic and voluntary organizations, student councils, local retailers, schools, individual parents, Poison Control Centers, local medical communities (hospitals, emergency medical services, individual doctors and nurses, retailers, pharmacists, etc.) and TV and radio stations &emdash; just to mention a few. If you fall into any of these groups and want to prevent or reduce inhalant use in your community &emdash; this campaign is for you.

Does NIPAW work? Yes. Results from Texas, where extensive state-wide NIPAW campaigns have been conducted, have been remarkable. Between 1992 and 1994, there was a reduction of more than 30 percent in elementary school inhalant use and a reduction of more than 20 percent at the high school level (based on state agency surveys of more than 176,000 students). This translates into over 100,000 students who may have used inhalants but didn't.

What do I get when I join NIPAW?

Each NIPAW Partner receives a local coordinator's kit. The kit includes:

up to date statistics about inhalant abuse in the country
How To" guide to conduct a local media/awareness campaign
background information
suggested activities
tips on working effectively with the media
camera ready art for print reproduction (with space to add local identification) for bag stuffers, window posters, newspaper print ads, brochures and handout flyers
sample copy for letters to the editor, op eds, radio scripts, editorials and news releases
camera ready art for overhead presentations
regular NIPAW UPDATES indicating what other Partners are doing and any new statistics or information that becomes available
list of NIPAW Partners in your state

(Print art is available in two versions in each kit: one with the products depicted and the other without the products. Coordinator's kit are available in English and Spanish.)

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Inhalant Deaths Often Undetected

Source: Summer 1994 ViewPoint

Deaths of inhalant abusers may be listed as "undetermined" on a death certificate because a specific screening test for inhalants was not part of an autopsy, according to three Southwest medical examiners. For this reason inhalants as either the main cause or a contributing factor in a death are most likely underreported, especially at the national level.

"Deaths are sometimes listed as undetermined if good toxicology has not been done," said Suzanne Dana, Deputy Medical Examiner for Travis County. Unless a specific toxicology test for volatiles and solvents is run, called gas chromotography, evidence of their use most likely will not show up in the more common toxicology tests performed.

Most rural areas and smaller towns and cities do not have labs with the capability of determining if inhalants were a cause of death, according to James C. Garriot, chief toxicologist with the Bexar County Forensic Science Center. "Unless they send (specimens) off to major cities such as Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Austin or San Antonio, inhalants as a cause of death will be undetected," Garriot said.

"The annual statistics for inhalant death are horrendously underreported, especially national statistics," said Dr. Timothy Rohrig, chief forensic toxicologist for Oklahoma and National Inhalant Prevention Coalition member. "In many instances a coroner will view the body and make a decision without a thorough medical exam. A lot of coroners are not doctors, they may have been appointed or elected. You really have to be looking for (traces of inhalants) to pick them up in an autopsy."

Although few deaths were found to be directly due to inhalant toxicity during a recent six-year study by Bexar County medical examiners, a striking correlation was made relating inhalants with violent deaths. In 39 deaths in which the presence of inhalant chemicals were detected by blood screening, suicide (28%), accidents (26%) and homicide (23%) were the top three causes of death, followed by inhalant-induced death (18%). Involvement of inhalants was suspected due to external physical evidence at the scene or during the autopsy.

The recent deaths of two Austin-area males who abused inhalants is also indicative of the contributing part inhalants play in some fatalities even if they are not listed as the main cause of death.

The case of a 30-year-old Round Rock man who died May 14 after drinking alcohol and inhaling spray paint is an example of a local justice of the peace who is on the lookout for signs of inhalant abuse. The Hispanic male died of a blood vessel rupture in his brain, according to the medical examiner's report released by Jimmy Bitz, a Williamson County justice of the peace.

"There was toluene, a component of spray paint, found in his bloodstream," Bitz said, who requested that the Travis County medical examiner test for inhalants. "He had spray paint on his hands and was said to be a longtime inhalant abuser by those who knew him." Although the official cause of death was listed as an aneurysm, Bitz said, "something had to have contributed to that vessel rupture."

Just a few miles east of Round Rock, an 18-year old Hutto male was found dead from a gun pellet that pierced his eye and went into his brain. A rag soaked with gasoline was found next to his body. Judge Judy Hobbs, a Williamson County justice of the peace who ruled the death accidental, explained that although inhalants were not directly the cause of death, they were a factor.

"Unless we start tenaciously tracking inhalant abuse, it's not going to become a major issue," Hobbs said. "I wish there was some way we could test them before death occurs".

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National PTA Adopts Inhalant Resolution

Source: Summer 1994 ViewPoint

At its national convention, the PTA adopted a resolution to promote and encourage education programs and increase public awareness of inhalant abuse throughout its membership. The resolution was prepared by National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC) member Jane Chittick.

The PTA becomes the first national education and parent organization to officially recognize and address the problem of inhalant abuse. PTA membership consists of almost 7 million persons in over 26,000 local units, throughout the world.

"This is a great leap forward in our efforts to make parents and children aware of the dangers of using inhalants. A special thanks to Tennessee's Jane Chittick and Pinkie Porcher of Amarillo," said Harvey Weiss, TPP executive director and NIPC chair.

"Only with the help of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition and the Texas Prevention Partnership, and their members, was I able to develop the background information needed to be fully aware in inhalant education," said Chittick. "Our PTA members and most of the public are unaware of the dangers of inhalants. With the passage of this resolution, local PTA units will be made aware and can look forward to more information from the national organization," Chittick continued.

At the national convention, Weiss presented a workshop on inhalant prevention tactics to over 50 participants representing a cross section of the national PTA membership.

The National PTA Resolution

Whereas, Inhalant abuse is the deliberate act of inhaling concentrated amounts of fumes (also called sniffing or huffing) from volatile legal products (rubber cement, spray paint, permanent felt tip markers, vegetable cooking oil spray, typewriter fluid, hair spray, nail polish, gasoline, automotive cleaners and fluids, aerosol propellants, cleaning fluids, and glue, to name a few) for the purpose of mood alteration and/or becoming intoxicated; and

Whereas, There has been a gradual, but steady increase in inhalant use from 1980-1990; and

Whereas, SAFE (Solvent Abuse Foundation for Education) reports there are about 1.8 million inhalant abusers (ages 12-17) in the United States; and

Whereas, Repeated episodes can cause progressive damage or deterioration of the brain and/or body, and any single sniffing episode can be fatal; and

Whereas, One of the objects of PTA is to promote the welfare of children and youth; now therefore be it

Resolved, That the National PTA, through its constituent bodies, promote and encourage age-appropriate educational programs about Inhalant Abuse; and be it further

Resolved, That the National PTA, through its constituent bodies, increase public awareness about the methods, symptoms, effects, and dangers of Inhalant Abuse.

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TCADA Report Cites Inhalant Deaths

Source: Fall 1994 ViewPoint

According to official records, an average of 15 Texans a year died of inhalant abuse from 1990-1993, based on death certificates obtained from the Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics. As with all drug overdose deaths, underreporting of inhalant deaths occurs because not all death certificates that involve drugs will show that drugs were involved.

Fifteen Texans died of inhalant use in 1993, according to an analysis of death certificates by Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Department Director Jane Maxwell.

People who died from inhalant use often don't fit the stereotype, Maxwell said; they're white, male and are an average of 26 years old. In fact, the youngest average age of those who died from inhalant use in any of the four years was 21, in 1991. The average death in 1993 was 30.

Freon, by far the most common substance listed on the death certificates in the study, was cited as the cause of death in an average of six cases a year. Toluene and trichlorethane are the next most common substances. Toluene is found in gas additives and spray paint, while trichlorethane is found in correction fluid, Scotchguard and spot remover. Nitrous oxide -- "laughing gas" -- is cited as the cause of death in at least one case a year. For more information about the report, contact Jane Maxwell, TCADA, (512) 867-8829.

Inhalant Overdose Deaths

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British Solvent Abuse Parallels Inhalant Use in Texas

Source: Winter 1993 ViewPoint

The terminology may be different but the problems are the same. Inhalants, referred to as solvents in Great Britain, are as serious a problem as in the United States, according to Richard Ives.

Ives is a trustee of RE-SOLV, the British counterpart to the Solvent Abuse Education Foundation in the U.S., and a consultant to the National Children's Bureau solvent misuse project in his country. He visited TPP [currently known as the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition] offices, where he met staff and Michelle Horneber from Texas Education Agency Drug Use Prevention Program, to review TPP's inhalant initiative and exchange information about prevention.

One article referred to solvent abuse in Great Britain as "the fad that never fades." Statistics mirror those of Texas with about one in four of middle school children having experimented with "solvents." Ives participated in a Pan-European Inhalant Conference last year and reported that solvent abuse is a problem throughout Europe also.

Ives said that the annual number of deaths attributed to solvent abuse in the United Kingdom has been steadily increasing since the early eighties with 149 deaths reported in 1990.

In 1985 Britain passed the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act. The act states in part, "It is an offense for a person to supply or offer to supply a substance other than a controlled drug:

a. to a person under the age of eighteen whom he knows or has reasonable cause to believe, to be under that age; or,

b. to a person:

(i) who is acting on behalf of a person under that age; and

(ii) whom he knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, to be so acting, if he knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the substance is, or its fumes are, likely to be inhaled by the person under the age of eighteen for purpose of causing intoxication.

Ives contributed two books he edited and other inhalant materials to the TPP Resource Bank.

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Inhalant Abuse in Complex Spurs Call for Help

Source: Spring 1994 ViewPoint

Two Austin youths recently inhaled octane booster and then used a knife to rob the vendor of a passing ice cream truck of $1.40.

The crime disgusted Ann Hall, property manager of the federally funded apartment complex where the boys live and prompted her to action. She contacted TPP to request materials and is aggressively ensuring that the 350 children and their parents in the Section 8 complex learn about the dangers of inhalant use. She has already shown Inhalants: An Adult Primer and reported excellent response from parents.

Her next target will be the kids: "A young group of kids out here decided they would have a gang, and the younger kids who see them with inhalants might think that it's cool," Hall said. "Those two kids who robbed the ice cream truck may already be lost, but by showing the other kids the video we are trying to convince them to communicate to adults when they see their peers inhaling. We want to let them know they could help save a life from physical and mental damage."

Hall said that many of her parents were shocked at some of the statistics on inhalant abuse. "One mother told me, 'I never even thought about whiteout or deodorant sprays being inhaled.' So she went and asked her kid, 'Do you ever smell these items,' and her kid said, 'Well, yeah, it makes me dizzy and I like it.'"

Hall added, "We do have a problem right now with mainly 12 to 14-year-olds inhaling substances. We have (a population of) about 55 percent Hispanic here and inhalants seem popular with them." To combat the growing problem, Hall and other parents will hold an ice cream social for the children on April 29 and show the TPP video, Silent Epidemic. She has already started her education campaign with TPP posters.

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National Inhalant Prevention Coalition Forms

Source: Summer 1993 ViewPoint

A National Inhalant Prevention Coalition was formed as a result of TPP's successful Inhalant & Poison Awareness Week.

In April, representatives from several states that are interested in inhalant use prevention and treatment came to Austin for a roundtable organized by TPP and partially funded by the BEST Foundation for a Drug-Free Tomorrow. Government, private foundations, industry, the medical profession, and inhalant treatment and prevention specialists met to discuss ways to collaborate and form a united front to counteract the prevalent abuse of inhalants.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided funding for a second meeting in July and the National Inhalant Coalition was formalized with a mission statement and development of goals and objective for committees.

"Inhalant use is a serious problem nationwide, but prevention and treatment have not been coordinated and cohesive on a national level. Because of TCADA's support for the TPP inhalant prevention initiative, Texas has become a leader in this area and TPP has been in contact with individuals and agencies from throughout the country that have identified inhalant use as a serious issue but often feel isolated in their efforts to counteract the problems," said TPP Project Director Harvey Weiss, who spearheaded the NIPC.

After several months of research and discussion, Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA) agreed to develop inhalant prevention messages with GSD&M, a noted Texas advertising agency, donating their creative services. Representatives from PDFA and GSD&M attended the April meeting and PDFA plans to have an inhalant use prevention message ready for media distribution this fall.

The next coalition meeting will be held this fall.

MISSION STATEMENT

The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition is committed to developing strategies to affect multinational public policy, increase public awareness and action at the federal, state, regional and local levels.

The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition will actively network and manage an information and resource clearinghouse for the medical, educational and other community-involved organizations.

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Austin Group Stages Rally to Alert Community About Octane Booster

Source: Fall/Winter 1994 ViewPoint

Several Austin organizations held a rally and march in November to alert parents, merchants and educators to the widespread abuse of inhaling octane booster and carburetor cleaner by youth in their neighborhoods.

Jesse Flores, executive director of Austin Youth Advocacy, spearheaded the effort which attracted several hundred concerned citizens who walked through the neighborhoods distributing flyers and talking to merchants who sell octane booster.

TPP provided technical assistance in a variety of ways including planning, promotion, media coordination and participation in the actual rally and march.

"We've relied heavily on the resources and expertise of the Texas Prevention Partnership (TPP), a statewide program that has been working on the inhalant problem since 1990," Flores said.

Flores said that the number of young people inhaling the octane booster had reached an unconscionable level with an estimated 20 percent of sixth graders at one elementary school being involved.

"We felt we had to intervene and mount an ongoing effort, or we'd soon see hundreds of these kids with brain damage. Death can also occur, and we're trying to inform parents, teachers and merchants of the problem before it's too late," Flores said.

Flores said that most merchants who sell octane booster were not aware that "kids are buying it to get high" and that once they understand they will comply with state and local laws governing the sale of this product and other inhalants to young people.

Charles Blanton, Texas Department of Health, provided the rally organizers with regulatory information about the sale of inhalants to minors.

Initially only gang members were using octane booster but it has spread to elementary students as young as 10 years old. Victor Acquino, Southeast Corner Alliance Network, Austin Police Sergeant Billy Sifuentes and Joe Hardin, a parent training specialist at Metz Elementary, helped organize the rally and alerted Austin Youth Advocacy to the escalating problem.

Flores is committed to sustaining the campaign kicked off by the rally and march until the inhalant problem is brought under control. He has already held a follow-up meeting.

Flores can be contacted at (512) 444-9505.

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