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Published: Saturday, 9/17/2005

Workshop puts focuson danger of inhalants

ARCHBOLD, Ohio When warning labels on cans of whipped cream say keep out of reach of children, it s not because of worries about butter fat.

Many other common household items that qualify as inhalants carry words of warning, and Howard Wolfe, director of the New England Inhalant Abuse Prevention Coalition, said during a conference here yesterday on inhalant abuse that parents should be paying close attention.

They need to read the labels and heed the labels, he said. Otherwise, children could pay the ultimate price.

Many adults think if a product is sold in a grocery store, it s no big deal. But kids are dying from this, said Mr. Wolfe, a featured speaker during the Northwest Ohio Inhalant Summit, a regional workshop yesterday at Northwest State Community College near Archbold.

Getting the word out to adults parents, school nurses, law enforcement officials, scout leaders, social workers, guid-ance counselors is key in the campaign to reduce and prevent inhalant abuse, he said.

Education by far is the most powerful tool we have, he added.

During the summit, sponsored by The Blade, The Community Partnership, and Northwest State, Harvey Weiss, executive director of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, said that getting the message out to the public is sometimes difficult because many people are unaware of what he called the silent epidemic.

A common thread in the education/awareness process, he said, is trying to convince people that a problem exists.

According to information presented at the summit, nationally, nearly one out of four eighth-grade students has intentionally inhaled products, including common household items, to get high.

The products are safe when used as directed. But when the vapors are concentrated and inhaled, they can become dangerous and deadly. Items range from spray paint to bug spray, and young people use terms such as huffing, sniffing, dusting, and bagging when they talk about inhalant use, depending on the product of choice and the method of getting high.

Inhalant use is popular for several reasons, including that the products are easily available; they are cheap to obtain (free if found unlocked in the kitchen cabinets); they provide instant, brief effects; they are portable, and they are often unknown to adults.

Reducing the unknown is critical. There is a problem out there that needs to be addressed, Mr. Weiss said.

Speakers yesterday armed the 60 participants with handouts, brochures, and other materials and encouraged them to share the information, engaging their churches, communities, and civic organizations in awareness campaigns.

The Ohio Virtual Academy in Maumee will use the materials as part of a pilot project to educate parents about inhalant abuse, said Mary Murnen, a K-8 guidance counselor for the academy.

Some parents have no idea about this, she said. The academy has 3,000 students who take classes online. The project should get under way in a couple of weeks.

Paula Kirby, school nurse in the Anthony Wayne Local School District, plans to share information with administrators, teachers, and support staff about what she learned. It s important to make people aware of what s going on. Right now the topic seems to be under the radar, she said.

The Community Partnership was awarded a three-year, $350,000 federal grant to focus on inhalant and methamphetamine abuse.

A coalition dedicated to bringing community resources together to address drug prevention, the Community Partnership is among 14 grant recipients nationwide.

The inhalant and methamphetamine prevention project encompasses Lucas, Henry, Fulton, Williams, Wood, and Defiance counties.



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