Is inhalant use a risk factor for heroin and injection drug use among adolescents in the United States?
We examined whether inhalant use was associated with heroin and injection drug use (IDU) among adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States.Data were drawn from the 2002/2003 administrations of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). We conducted logistic regression analyses to estimate associations of inhalant use with heroin use, heroin injection, and IDU, respectively, among adolescent drug users (N=8161).Approximately 30.9% of adolescents had ever used at least one illicit drug. More than one-fifth (22.2%) of adolescents were past-year or recent drug users. Among past-year adolescent drug users, 1.4% had progressed to heroin use and 1.2% reported IDU. Adolescents who had used inhalants and marijuana were 2.8 and 2.9 times as likely as adolescents who had used marijuana but not inhalants to report heroin use and any IDU, respectively. Adolescents who had used inhalants or other drugs but not marijuana were unlikely to use heroin. However, inhalant users, irrespective of their marijuana use histories, had greater odds of IDU than drug users who had not used inhalants. Adolescent drug users who were females, school dropouts, whites, or delinquents had significantly increased odds of heroin use and IDU. Cigarette smoking before the age of 15 was strongly associated with heroin use, and a history of foster care placement was associated with IDU.This national study of American adolescents identifies several subgroups of recent drug users, such as females, school dropouts, and youth who have used inhalants and marijuana, which have substantially increased odds of heroin use and IDU. Screening, prevention, and treatment interventions targeted to these groups might reduce medical and social complications of heroin use and IDU.
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