Posted: 12:00 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013

Police: Inhalant abuse not as common as it used to be

By Lauren Pack

Staff Writer


A 19-year-old is in jail awaiting trial for allegedly passing out behind the wheel of his car after huffing a cleaning solution then crashing into and killing an elderly couple in Middletown.

Nicholas Powers was huffing Endust in the car just seconds before plowing into Glen and Elaine Pugh’s car, according to Middletown police. The husband and wife, ages 69 and 64, were returning to their Preble County home after grocery shopping at Kroger near the Towne Mall.

According to the United States Department of Justice, the effect of driving while impaired from huffing, or inhalant abuse, is similar to drunk driving. The adrenaline rush caused by inhalants can result in behavior that is unpredictable and erratic.

Police in both Middletown and Hamilton say arrests are made for abusing harmful intoxicants, which is a first degree misdemeanor, but it is hard to determine how big of a problem huffing actually is.

“Because it doesn’t involve illegal drugs, tracking by just arrests is difficult,” said Middletown police Lt. Scott Reeve.

In addition to the crash incident, Middletown has had three other huffing-related arrests so far this year. The latest was on Aug. 3, when a man was arrested after officers found him sitting on the sidewalk next to a can of gold spray paint. His nose, his face and fingers were covered in gold, according to reports.

There are a variety of street names for used in huffing, including gluey (airplane model glue), rush (spray deodorants) and spray (spray paint), according to the department of justice.

Hamilton police Sgt. Wade McQueen said gold spray paint is the “favorite” of abusers. He said three or four years ago, arresting abusers was common, but the proliferation of synthetic drugs and bath salts has curbed some of the appeal.

“We had a group of people, for a while, that we arrested many times,” McQueen said. If they knew a person had been convicted before, McQueen said they were able to arrested them for possession of criminal tools if they were walking down the street with a can of gold paint.

McQueen said huffing deprives the body of oxygen making abusers disoriented and light-headed.

“One guy couldn’t even tell me his name, but he could tell me how good it made him feel,” McQueen said.

Police said businesses do not typically regulate the sale of products used for huffing, but may limit the amount if a teen or child is buying.

“There are just so many stores to buy them from and none of them are illegal,” McQueen said.

One trend was noted by both police agencies: huffing is not just for kids.

A 2011 department of justice report said, “huffing traditionally has been associated with adolescents; however, adults may compose the majority of inhalant abusers.” It is estimated that each year more than 1 million adults abuse inhalants in the United States.

From 2009 to 2012, there were three Butler County deaths due to huffing, involving people ages 50, 34 and 46, according to the Butler County Coroner’s Office. Two of those deaths were ruled suicides, and the third was accidental.


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