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"Huffing" Tied to Teen Suicidal Tendencies

Tuesday, October 16, 2007
By Joene Hendry

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Inhaling household solvents such as cleaning products or glue -- so-called "huffing" or "bagging" -- appear to be linked to an increased risk of attempting or thinking about suicide among incarcerated teens, study findings suggest.

"Even when holding other drug use and emotional problems constant, inhalants still emerged as a strong correlate of suicidal tendencies," Dr. Stacey Freedenthal, at the University of Denver, Colorado, told Reuters Health.

Freedenthal and colleagues interviewed 723 boys and girls, aged 15 years on average, while in residential rehabilitation with the Missouri Division of Youth Services in 2003.

They found that one-third of the adolescents had inhaled volatile solvents and one quarter had also attempted suicide, the researchers report in the medical journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Girls were significantly more likely to report thinking about suicide than boys. Moreover, 51 percent of the girls had attempted suicide compared with 22 percent of the boys.

The team found that "something unique to inhalant use, and particularly abuse or dependence, is related to suicidal thoughts or attempts," Freedenthal said.

Specifically, suicidal thinking or attempts were reported by 40 percent of the girls who had not used inhalants, but by 61 percent who had tried inhalants. Of the girls who were classified as inhalant dependent, 81 percent reported previous suicidal thoughts or attempts, the researchers report.

Among boys, 14 percent of non-inhalant users, 26 percent of the inhalant users, and 59 percent of those dependent on inhalants reported previous suicide ideation or attempts.

"There is no reason to believe that the relationship between inhalant use and suicidality would be different in the general population of youth," Freedenthal noted. "Regardless of whether youth are incarcerated or simply huffing in their bedroom behind a closed door, inhalant use relates to higher risk than normal for suicidal thoughts and behavior."

However, whether inhalant use leads to suicidality or vice versa requires further research, Freedenthal added.

SOURCE: Drug and Alcohol Dependence, September 2007
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