Nearly one out of four teens who use an asthma inhaler say their intent is to get high, says a new study, which found high levels of asthma inhaler misuse among anti-social youth.
According to the University of Michigan study, youth who displayed such a behavior had higher levels of distress and were more likely to abuse other substances.
"Our findings indicate that inhaler misuse for the purposes of becoming intoxicated is both widespread and may justifiably be regarded as a form of substance abuse in many cases," Science Daily quoted Brian Perron, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work and study's lead author, as saying.
In the study, the research team conducted a survey assessing substance use, psychiatric symptoms and anti-social behaviors among 723 adolescents in 32 residential treatment facilities.
About 27 percent of youths who had been prescribed an inhaler used it excessively. In addition, one-third of all youths in the sample had used an asthma inhaler without a prescription.
Asthma inhaler misusers were more psychiatrically distressed and prone to suicidal thoughts and attempts than youths who did not misuse their inhalers to get high, the study shows.
Many inhaler abusers reported positive feelings of euphoria, relaxation and increased confidence during or immediately following inhaler use. Adverse reactions noted included feeling more dizzy, headaches, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, irritability and confusion.
Rates of misuse were elevated among girls and whites in the sample, the study shows.
The study is published in the recent issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.