Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Psychiatry and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

A Survey of Inhalant Use Disorders among Delinquent Youth: Prevalence, Clinical Features, and Latent Structure of DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria

Matthew O Howard1* and Brian E Perron2

Author Affiliations

1 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building, Campus Box 3550, 325 Pittsboro Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3550, USA

2 University of Michigan, School of Social Work, 1080 S. University Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Psychiatry 2009, 9:8  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-9-8

Published: 8 March 2009



Inhalant use is among the most pernicious and poorly understood forms of adolescent substance use. Many youth in the juvenile justice system have used inhalants, but little is known about inhalant use disorders (IUDs) in antisocial youth populations. The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence, clinical features, and latent structure of DSM-IV IUDs in a state population of antisocial youth.


Cross-sectional survey conducted in 2003. Of 740 youth residing in Missouri State Division of Youth Services' (MDYS) residential treatment facilities at the time the study was conducted, 723 (97.7%) completed interviews. Eighty-seven percent were male, with a mean age of 15.5 (SD = 1.2). Nearly 4 in 10 youth (38.5%; n = 279) reported lifetime inhalant use. Youth ranged from very mildly to severely antisocial.


Of 279 inhalant users, 52 (18.6%) met DSM-IV inhalant abuse criteria and 79 (28.3%) met inhalant dependence criteria. Five of 10 IUD criteria were met by > 10% of the total sample. Latent class analyses demonstrated a substantial concordance between DSM-IV-defined IUDs and an empirically-derived classification based on responses to DSM-IV IUD diagnostic criteria.


IUDs and constituent criteria were prevalent among youth in the juvenile justice system. Two groups of problem inhalant users were identified, symptomatic users-DSM-IV inhalant abuse and highly symptomatic users-DSM-IV inhalant dependence, which differed primarily in severity of inhalant-related problems. Inhalant screening, prevention and treatment efforts in juvenile justice settings are rarely delivered, but critically needed.