October 10, 2005 – Posted at 3:54 p.m. CDT
JONESBORO, AR – According to a 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 23 million Americans reported trying inhalants at least once in their life. The highest users are between the ages of 12 and 17, but a new form of inhalant is leaving a deadly wake.
Generations of teenagers have been sniffing household products for years. everything from whiteout to lighter fluid. But a new trend in huffing has teenagers dying and police officials worried.
It's a common household item used to clean computers...compressed air.
“It just robs your lungs of oxygen. And the R2 refrigerant basically freezes and it's very dangerous,” said Jonesboro Police Officer and DARE Educator Kevin Foust.
The Jonesboro Police Department has had four incidents in the last three months involving teens huffing the product. For police, the colorless, odorless gas is hard to detect.
“We just know they are impaired, but we don't know what. In three out of the four cases that we have handled here at the police department, cans have actually been found in the vehicle,” said Foust.
Two suspects now face charges of driving while intoxicated. And for police, it's a new generation of crime.
“Inhalants are up 44% nationwide in teenagers. So it's a little bit different from back when we were in school when it was alcohol and marijuana,” said Foust, “We are starting to get some stories from some other states. And apparently it's becoming a problem across the country, it's not just here.”
Inhaling products can have permanent side effects, including hearing and memory loss, cardiac arrest, brain, kidney, liver and bone marrow damage. And according to the Journal of Human Toxicology, a record 22% of those who die from huffing do so the first time they try it.