A new low point for kids getting high
Sentinel & Enterprise
Hannah D'Alessandro, 13, of
Leominster, said she learned about huffing, or inhalant
abuse, in science class. But when she watched the movie
"Thirteen," she saw something new.
The opening scene of the movie, which
is about two troubled 13-year-olds, depicts the two
girls sitting on a bed and spraying computer keyboard
cleaner into their mouths to get a high, a practice
commonly refereed to as "dusting."
"It was kind of disturbing,"
D'Alessandro said. "It was scary to watch."
Huffing isn't a new trend. If you
visit inhalants.org, the Web site for the National
Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC), you'll find a
staggering list of products that can be used to get
high, from glue and hair spray to cooking spray, air
freshener, deodorant and butane.
But recently, a new product has been
added to that list.
"In the last two weeks parents have
written me about the loses of their children because of
computer keyboard cleaner," said Harvey Wiess, NIPC's
director. "It's something that we're hearing more and
more about. There have been a number of fatal episodes
associated with it."
The practice of inhaling keyboard
cleaner -- which is called "dusting," and gets its title
from the most common brand name of computer keyboard
cleaners, "Dust-Off" -- falls into the category of
huffing, but it is unique in that there is no strong
chemical odor associated with its use.
"Kids are really not sensitive to the
dangers of these products because they think it's just
air inside, when it's an aerosol," Weiss said. Weiss
said the cans include freon, which is a refrigerant.
"You can have frost bite on your
tongue, your lips, your throat (from dusting)," he said.
The reason dusting gives the user a
high is because the gases replace the oxygen in the
body, "which is why it causes light headedness and
passing out," Weiss explained.
But inhalants can also cause death.
"(Huffing) can kill you," Weiss said.
"That is called Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. You can
die the first time you use it, the fifth time or the
Leominster residents Sam Martin, Marco
DeNuzzio and Darielle Hackette, all 17, were shopping
together at the Mall at Whitney Field on Wednesday.
DeNuzzio was the only one who recognized the term
"I heard (about dusting) on the show
'Cops,'" he said, also noting that he thought dusting
was a stupid thing to do.
"'Let's place something toxic in our
mouth, that's cool,'" Denuzzio quipped sarcastically.
Hackette, however, had seen the movie
"Thirteen," and remembered being shocked by its opening
"That was ridiculous. It was intense,"
she said. "They're 13 years old, are you kidding me?"
Martin was also disgusted by the
thought of dusting.
"That's kind of gross, actually," she
said. "It doesn't surprise me. People do crazy stuff."
Martin did express some familiarity
with inhalant use.
"People do Whippets," she said,
referring to the practice of spraying a can of whipped
cream into your mouth while only releasing the gas,
providing a high.
Inhalant use is not unusual among
teens. According to the NIPC, 5 million teens, which is
21 percent of the teen population, have tried inhalants.
D'Alessandro said she thought people
her age were more likely to use inhalants than older
kids because of the substances' accessibility.
"It's easier to get," D'Alessandro
said. "And you can use anything in an aerosol can."
D'Alessandro's older sister, Katelyn,
21, who was shopping with Hannah D'Alessandro at the
Mall at Whitney Field appeared to be astonished by her
sister's knowledge. She also agreed that as teens get
older, they're more like to move on to other drugs
because they can afford them.
"When you get to my age group, it's
more of a higher breed of drugs," Katelyn D'Alessandro
Dust Off, though the most well-known,
is not the only product on the market like it.
Its maker, Falcon Safety Products,
posts a warning on each can, as well as on its Web site.
"As a leading manufacturer of one of
the world's more versatile aerosol products, Falcon
recognizes that among the issues surrounding aerosol
product distribution and usage is that of inhalant abuse
or 'huffing.' It is imperative that consumers of aerosol
products, parents and children all understand the
seriousness of this practice," the Web site states.
Some retail outlets are acknowledging
the danger of products such as Dust Off and are taking
steps to keep them away from kids.
Percy Eady, who is the manager of
Staples on North Main Street in Leominster, said they do
not sell the product to anyone under 18 years old.
"We do have an age requirement for our
products that are air cleaners," Eady said. "There's a
register prompt for the cashier to ask for age ID."
But while Staples mandates this
practice, the Radio Shack at the Twin City Mall in
Leominster does not, according to the store's manager,
"We don't have an age limit that
people can buy it, no," Harnoif said.
Kylee Caruso, 18, of Gardner, wasn't
surprised to hear about a new form of huffing,
remembering what people used when she was in middle
"I remember people liked (to sniff)
Whiteout," she said. "When you're younger, you kind of
do stupid things."