FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Alaska has a slightly higher rate of inhalant abuse than the rest of the country, though the problem is much more severe in some rural villages, according to health officials.
Nationally, 20 percent of kids by eighth grade have ''huffed'' at least one of a variety of products ranging from gasoline to typewriter correction fluid. In Alaska, about 22 percent have abused inhalants.
The Alliance for Consumer Education in a nationwide survey of 500 families released this week in Washington, D.C., found that only 47 percent of parents have discussed inhalant abuse with their children.
In contrast, about 80 percent have discussed the dangers of drugs, alcohol, tobacco and poisons, the nonprofit group said.
Cindi Bookout, a former Fairbanksan who now serves as the alliance's executive director, said the survey showed parents aren't intentionally avoiding the subject -- they just aren't aware of the dangers.
The survey found that 70 percent of parents said they would talk to their kids if they knew more, she said.
Bookout started working on the issue while a staff member for Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska. Murkowski, who sponsored a Senate resolution dedicating this week to raising inhalant abuse awareness, attended the news conference.
''A lot of people don't want to face up to the reality that you can die the first time you use inhalants,'' he said. Murkowski helped fund a treatment center in Bethel that opened last year.
Dr. Mickey Harris, an emergency room physician and adviser to the alliance, said inhalants can cause suffocation and death through cardiac arrest. They also can case brain damage.
The alliance passed out a brochure from the National Institute on Drug Abuse with pictures of a shriveled brain from a person who abused toluene, a common chemical in glue, spray paint and nail polish remover.
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