Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Huffing deaths

This post is a serious warning about the practice of "huffing:" inhaling substances (usually aerosols of some sort) for the purpose of getting high. In Lincoln, there have been two recent deaths and one recent medical emergency involving the inhalation of the propellant and compounds contained in "canned air": aerosol products marketed for blowing dust off such things as computer keyboards.

The last death in Lincoln from huffing that I can recall was about 16 years ago. These three cases in rapid succession are of grave concern. I feel that we have an ethical obligation to warn the public about this phenomenon, even though I realize that this may be painful for the friends and family of the victims.

On November 12, 2008, a 19 year old Lincoln man was found in his apartment next to a plastic bag and a can of "Maxell Blast Away". CPR was initiated and he was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead in the emergency department. The case number is A8-113360.

On December 8, 2008, a 36 year old Lincoln man was found dead in his apartment, with a can of "Safe Clean" dust remover in his hand. Four other empty cans were also recovered, along with receipts for the purchase of 11 cans over a three day period. The case number is A8-121264.

Autopsy results in both of these cases show that the victims died from asphyxia after inhaling these substances.

On December 6, 2008, Lincoln emergency personnel responded to a medical emergency behind Shopko at 6845 S. 27th Street. A 28 year old man was found slumped over in his vehicle with a can of "Clean Safe" dust remover in his hand. This man recovered from his condition after on-scene treatment by Lincoln Fire & Rescue, and was cited for the offense of inhaling intoxicating vapors. The case number is A8-120719.

Other deaths have been reported as a result of the practice of inhaling dust remover products. Warning signs that might be indicative that someone is engaging in huffing these substances might include such things as multiple purchases in a short time period, possession of several cans, discovery of several empty cans, and the presence of cans with plastic bags or other paraphernalia associated with huffing.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

While I don't recommend it, I can at least understand inhaling something like nitrous oxide that is actually intended for inhalation in a controlled medical environment, but you've really got to be self-destructive to be inhaling things like paint, cleaning products, solvents, and such. "developing chemical pneumonia" and "brain damage" shouldn't be on your to-do list. If you've got to get zonked for couch change, go to a liquor store and buy some Night Train (just don't drive, please).

Anonymous said...

Don't cite someone for inhaling, that just adds insult to injury.

Tom Casady said...

8:24-

I disagree. I think that many times a formal charge is exactly the kind of intervention that motivates an offender to confront his or her problem, makes it more difficult for his or her loved ones to pretend it doesn't exist, and in some cases becomes the gateway to treatment or to supervision (such as probation) that helps the person in the long run. I've had many people that I personally arrested for DWI, and a few for drugs offenses, who in later years have told me just that.

Even if I didn't believe this, though, it's the law: this is illegal, and I don't think the police should ignore a violation of the law that poses a serious risk of death.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the Chief on this one. I have a little experience working with kids that have troubles with drugs, alcohol, etc. One "wake up" call doesn't usually do the trick. It takes several people to shine a light on the problem so that folks will acknowledge it and decide to do something. Seems to me citations, court, probation, and jail is a bit of a flood light but even that does not always make people realize they have a problem.

Anonymous said...

Pedal bikes, not drugs!

Anonymous said...

I find this post particularly disturbing. This is a lethal drug that can be bought at legally at hundreds of stores by anyone. A person does not need to be an addict or a long time user of this to die from it. One hit can kill you!! Just last week I stood behind a young man in the checkout line at the south Wal-Mart. His entire purchase was 5 cans of Dust-Off. After he purchased it and walked out I commented to my friend about it. The cashier responded, "Yea, he is here almost every day buying that. I don’t know why he needs so much." I informed her that people use it as an inhalant to get high and she seemed completely shocked. Is there anything cashier can do if they notice a customer buying Dust-Off on a regular basis? Can they refuse to sell it to them? I would not want to read the obituaries one day and recognize my regular customer had died from the drug I sold to them.

Grundle said...

"Don't cite someone for inhaling, that just adds insult to injury."

How is this different from ANY drug-related offense?

Same thing as saying, "Don't cite someone for attempting suicide, it just adds insult to injury." The police can't be there to stop someone from hanging themselves, and they can't stop people from inhaling legal substances like these canned cleaners...their ONLY chance for intervention is after the fact. And I agree with the Chief here...a citation makes it clear that a problem exists. There's no more hiding or denying it, and I think he's right in that it provides an opportunity for the user or their family to seek support and begin the path to recovery.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. This guy cost the city money for emergency services, man power for the police department, and probably a lot of worry for his family. He should have to pay the city back for these services. However, I would bet that very few of these calls get paid for.

Anonymous said...

well put.

Anonymous said...

I remember learning about huffing as a kid when a Lincoln teenager died from huffing Scotch Guard. This must've been pretty close (in time) to the case you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

I think the thing that bothers me the most about these reports are the ages of those involved.

To have a 28 and 36 yr old doing this - seems (for whatever reason) more troubling.

Maybe because I assume that by the time you can legally drink - you "put away your childish things" like huffing etc.

JIM J said...

If a person thinks this is safe to do, some would. Perhaps was told that it is OK. Also a parent may not be keeping track or even care for that matter. In some extreme cases the parent has knowledge of it and does nothing, so the huffer thinks it is OK. If you are assured that something is OK, you are more willing to do it. Peers may contribute to that end of it.
There is always more to every story than what is on its face.

Grundle said...

If you want to show your kids what huffing will do, go find the homeless guy that rides the old red bike around town. You'll know the guy when you see him...he looks like 'Cousin It'.

I say this because the guy comes into Cycle Works a lot, and has serious mental issues. A co-worker of mine is good friends with one of the employees there, and that seems to be the general consensus.

Anonymous said...

I've never understood why anyone would want to "huff"... Inhailing substances from aresol cans can kill you! The alvioli in the lungs are the membranes that transfer the oxygen you brethe to your bloodstrem. without them, you have NO chance, Huffing can FREEZE the alvioli, rendering them useless...You'll die! Anyone want to spread the message?

Anonymous said...

My son died from inhaling Dust Off on October 30, 2007. He was 22. There was no paraphanalia in his room to indicate he was a regular huffer and the can that he huffed seemed pretty full. He had been drinking, his blood alcohol level was .12. The coroner said that the combination of the two intoxicants was fatal. Please spread the word about how dangerous inhaling Dust Off and similar products can be.