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“One of the most important things that I’ve learned as an educator is not to necessarily go by what school administrators or parents believe the students know, or the youth know, because often it’s not on their RADAR screen and they don’t feel it’s an issue and then once you start talking about it a little bit with the kids, it bubbles up in front of them and I’ve heard several times when I left, ‘Oh, I had no idea I needed to talk about that as an issue.’”

Melissa Heinen, New Hampshire Educator with the Northern New England Poison Center


“It’s not always easy when the media calls and says, ‘You know, I want to do something for the 11:00 news. I know it’s 6:00 but we need it for the 11:00 and I want a family member.’ We don’t keep people in the closet ready to pop out whenever you call.”

Marlene McGann, Co-Chair of CT Task Force

Key Activities | Challenges | What We Learned

Spreading the Message: Challenges

The members of our state task forces encountered the following stumbling blocks:

How to frame the message
Inhalant abuse prevention presents a challenge and a paradigm shift for people who come from the substance abuse prevention field. We have asked people to think differently about inhalants. Preferred messages reframe the issue of inhalants into a public safety approach that equates inhalants with poisons, pollutants, and fire hazards; stresses using products as they were intended to be used; and is careful not to group inhalants in with other drugs.

“It was intimidating as an educator with the controversy of where should we go, what message should we give, and what messages shouldn’t we give. And because of that, I ended up becoming very eager to learn as much as I could to ward off some of those potential mistakes that could take place in the classroom as far as giving too much information or too little.”

Melissa Heinen, New Hampshire Educator with the Northern New England Poison Center

Silent epidemic
Unfortunately, adults know less about inhalants today than young people do. Inhalant abuse is not on the adult RADAR screen. Parents don’t talk about it with their children. Pediatricians don’t often look for signs of abuse with their patients. School administrators don’t believe they have a problem in their schools. Our challenge was to find effective ways to reach the general population -- without disclosing information that would interest potential young experimenters.

Partnering with the Media
Well-intentioned news reporters see inhalant abuse as a fresh new issue and in their zeal to report the dangers, they often write about what products to use, how to use them, and their drug-like effect. In addition, television programs often want to showcase a young inhalant abuser or a family that has lost a young child. We believe it's a difficult situation for a young person who is in recovery from addiction to be interviewed on air. If done, it must be done with great care. And it may be difficult to find a family locally willing to speak up. So, while we crave the news coverage, we want it conducted responsibly.

See Massachusetts Inhalant Abuse Task Force's "Frequently Asked Questions to Inform the Press about Inhalants" for an example of a document that explains the issue to the media.




The New England Inhalant Abuse Prevention Coalition | Home | Contact