Inhalant abuse will be highlighted in county's 3rd annual drug summit

Household products on `Pathway to Heroin'

May 24, 2000|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A national expert on inhalant abuse will be the keynote speaker at tomorrow'sDrug Summit 2000 - "The Pathway to Heroin" - at 7 p.m. at Carroll Community College.

"Inhalants, the Household High" is a specialty topic for Isabel Burk, a mother, popular speaker and researcher.

She also is director of Health Network, a New York training and consulting firm, and chairwoman of the American School Health Association's Council on Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs.

The summit, the county's third, grew from concerns about youth heroin abuse after the overdose death of a Westminster teen-ager several years ago.

Those concerns also led to a well-publicized countywide anti-drug effort and spawned Residents Attacking Drugs, a grass-roots community group that drew national attention with its video, "Heroin Kills."

More than 250 adults and children attended last year's summit, which featured the first public showing of "Heroin Kills." The 35-minute video was based on a tragedy in Carroll.

Burk, a certified health education specialist, has addressed more than 30,000 people in 29 states.

She said the people who should come to learn about the widespread problem are those who don't think they have to worry about it.

Burk said she does not try to frighten her audience, but described the information she includes in her presentation as "very down and dirty.""I'll bring along 40 to 50 products, all commonly found at home, and demonstrate what their usage looks like," she said.

Burk said parents and teachers have told her they have seen people abusing inhalants and didn't realize what they were seeing.

"That's why I like to refer to it as the `Invisible World of Inhalants,'" she said.

Burk said she also provides information about the effects of inhalants on the body and brain and outlines ways that parents can reduce the chance that their children will experiment with inhalants.

"What might make me different is that I make it lively and fun," she said. "I'm not out to scare anyone."

The belief that inhalant abuse parallels abuse of other drugs is not accurate, Burk said.

"Much younger children - fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders - are more likely to get involved with inhalants than drugs, because inhalants are not illegal and are easily attainable in the home," she said.

The number of inhalant abusers that researchers saw in the 1970s has decreased, but only slightly, Burk said.

Statistics from a 1999 University of Michigan survey of American schoolchildren showed 20 percent of eighth-graders had abused inhalants, but only 10 percent had done so in the previous year and only 5 percent within 30 days.

The numbers declined as the children got older. But another survey of more than 180,000 students in 22 states last year showed that more than 6 percent of fourth-grade students had used inhalants within the preceding 12 months.

Too many parents worry about drugs and alcohol and overlook home products, items such as correction fluid, nail polish and nail polish remover, air fresheners, deodorant spray and furniture wax, to name a few, Burk said.

Drug Summit 2000, which is free and expected to last about two hours, is sponsored by the county commissioners.

Junction Inc., a Westminster-based substance abuse prevention and treatment facility, is serving as host.

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