On Nov. 20, NBC “Today” show co-host Meredith Vieira called the huffing of inhalants “a deadly trend among tweens,” introducing reporter Jeff Rossen, who asserted that “new numbers show this is now the ‘it drug’ for young kids.” Rossen says, “This quick high, all the rage among high school kids, is now invading elementary and middle schools. Now more eighth graders abuse household cleaners than marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogens combined.”
Media critic Jack Shafer of Slate says the segment completely overstates their use. An inhalants fact sheet from the government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse says that “more 8th-graders have tried inhalants than any other illicit drug,” which is very different from Rossen’s statement that more eighth graders use inhalants “than marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogens combined.” If you dial the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study back to 1991, you find that more eighth graders were reporting that they’d used inhalants at some point in their life (17.6 percent). The lifetime prevalence number rose to 21.6 percent by 1995 but has basically been declining ever since, Shafer says.