A Los Angeles perspective. Below is a message from the IMPACT Advisor in the LA Unified School District:
My first experience with inhalant abuse happened when I was a student in Mrs. Stuart's 7th grade Art Class. Flaco, a skinny kid already on a dubious path, ducked under the work table we shared to pick up a pencil he had intentionally dropped. Instead of picking up the pencil right away, he reached in the pocket of his black cholo jacket and proceeded to take out a pair of stuffed socks which he sprayed with an aerosol can, and which he then pushed onto his beaked nose and inhaled deeply as if it were his last breath! After a minute or so, he came back up with the pencil in his hand and had a very bleary gaze.
At that time, in the early 1980's, the slang term for inhaling to get high was "sniffing", now it's "huffing" or "bagging" or "chroming." In my 15+ years of working for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), this particular inhaling problem appears to rise and fall, a pattern that has been linked to young persons's perception of the risks of inhalants and this pattern appears to be on the rise again. Only this time, by all indications, the problem is affecting youngsters not only from the inner city but also from all over the country, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, and with parents with high and low levels of education.
As an educator, and adviser for LAUSD's IMPACT Program, it is my responsibility to educate school staff, as well as parents on the dangers of inhalant abuse. As a large population of our students are Spanish speakers, the Alliance for Consumer Education's Prevencion contra el Abuso de Inhalantes (Inhalant Abuse Prevention) will become an indispensable resource and tool in creating awareness among the parents of our youths.
IMPACT is the name of LAUSD's prevention and early intervention curriculum-based, student assistance program for secondary schools. The program is designed to provide students with the skills and support required for them to make positive life choices. The goal of IMPACT is to improve student achievement. IMPACT is not an acronym. It is so named because it makes a positive impact on students¡¦ lives. IMPACT provides a system for the identification, referral, and support of students who are exhibiting behavior of concern related to possible substance abuse and/or violence. Currently, there are 69 middle and senior high schools with an IMPACT Program. Each school with a Program has an IMPACT Coordinator and a Core Team of teachers and other staff members who are responsible for implementing and maintaining the components of the Program.
Due to frequent requests from our Coordinators for additional resources on inhalant abuse, I have recommended that Coordinators contact and request the Inhalant Abuse Prevention Kit from The Alliance for Consumer Education. Part of their responsibilities as Coordinators of the program is to conduct staff developments at their given schools and to provide parent awareness component, such as presentations on alcohol and other drug abuse among teenagers.
In the following weeks I will be conducting presentations using both the English and Spanish language Inhalant Abuse Prevention Kit for IMPACT Coordinators, school counselors, teachers, and other school personnel. I will also be presenting this all too important information to parents in the hopes of creating awareness on the dangers of inhalant abuse. Inhalant abuse is an issue that needs greater attention not only in our schools, but in our communities as well.