Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/10/2003 01:32 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HCR 8-INHALANTS AND POISONS AWARENESS WEEK CHAIR FRED DYSON called the Senate Health, Education and Social Services Standing Committee meeting to order at 1:32 p.m. and announced HCR 8 to be up for consideration. Present were Senators Dyson, Guess and Davis. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER, sponsor of HCR 8, explained that this bill asks the governor to recognize the nationally recognized inhalant, abuse and poisons awareness week, March 16-22. She said that inhalant abuse is not a new problem, but it is reaching rampant proportions throughout Alaska and among youth across the nation. One of the frustrating things about inhalant abuse is that the chemical substances used for huffing are not contraband or illegal. In fact, those substances are useful and needed for the use they are intended for. Over 1,400 chemical substances are commonly used as a means of getting high. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER said in an informal discussion she had with the Senate president, he asked if this addiction is a chemical or psychological one. It is both. The high one gets from inhalant abuse is very sudden and potent and, because the absorption is through the lungs, it goes to the vital organs quicker and penetrates deeper than most highs. Inhalant abuse affects all of the major organs. A major concern is that the abusers are very young and inhalant abuse affects their reproductive organs. She concluded, "So, this is affecting young generations and generations to come." CHAIR DYSON asked how it affects reproductive health. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER replied that it affects the brain, liver, lungs, and bone marrow and there is evidence that chronic abuse of some inhalants causes chromosome and fetal damage. She thought it could cause birth defects and explained: A lot of people who abuse inhalants have the same symptoms as someone with fetal alcohol syndrome. The way experts can tell the difference between someone who is a chronic inhalant abuser and an FAS victim is that a fetal alcohol syndrome person doesn't have many childhood memories, if any, and someone who is a chronic inhalant abuser has childhood memories from before they started using inhalants, but afterwards they have a very short-term memory. 1:37 p.m. SENATOR GREEN arrived. MS. MARTHA MOORE, Intervening Surveillance and Prevention Program Manager, DHSS, supported HCR 8. She explained that her office tracks all hospitalized poisonings and has found over the years that it is a substantial problem with about 525 Alaskans per year. She said that compares to about 570 motor vehicle crash victims hospitalized every year. Only 14% of the poisonings are accidental, the other 86% are suicidal. MS. MOORE said this resolution addresses the problem of access to the poison substances from the time children are young up through the teenage years. She said that a quarter of the accidental poisonings happen to children under 5 years old. Since 2001, Alaska has an arrangement with the Oregon Poison Center, which fields poison calls for Alaska. As a result, she has information on calls for Alaskan poisonings and has found that children under 5 years of age are getting into medications. Thirty years ago the childproof caps made a big difference and accidental poisonings went way down, but now they are creeping up again. She thinks it's because people are disabling the caps. The center received over 400 calls for cosmetic poisoning for kids under 15 years old. She said the neat thing about this system is that 75% of the poison calls that came into the center were handled over the phone, a huge cost savings. MS. MOORE also related that the first victim of huffing poisoning in the hospital registry was a seven-year old girl who was taught how to do it by older kids. The suicide attempts start at around 10 years old and as children go through the teenage years, huffing becomes the predominant reason for poisoning. CHAIR DYSON said the governor agrees with what Representative Kapsner is trying to do. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER added that according to a 1999 survey of eighth graders, 19.5% had used inhalants compared to 22% who had used marijuana or hashish. Inhalants are often a gateway to the abuse of other illicit substances; 70% of one group of substance abusers in treatment indicated that inhalants were their first drug and 50% of them said they would go back to huffing or inhaling if they did not have access to alcohol. Because inhalants enter the lungs in such high concentrations, they have a much more formidable toxic profile than other types of drugs. It takes 4 to 6 weeks to detoxify someone before they can go into the treatment process. SENATOR DAVIS moved to pass HCR 8 from committee. There were no objections and it was so ordered.