Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/10/2003 01:32 PM Senate HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                                                               
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.                                                                                               

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