More Teens Huffing Away In Utah

By Shawn Dwyer 06/05/14

How abusing inhalants has become a big problem for young people in the Beehive State.

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Whether gasoline, hairspray, or canned air, law enforcement in Utah has been combating a growing surge of huffing addiction affecting young people.

“We aren’t seeing 40- or 50-year-old people huffing,” said Orem police Lt. Craig Martinez. “We are seeing people in their late teens or 20s. It is an easy and a cheap high for kids who don’t understand the dangers of it.”

Over the past several months, police have received numerous calls of people abusing inhalants in their homes and in public, with many repeat customers. One 30-year-old man arrested in Payson City, Utah for trespassing had a long history with huffing gasoline.

“We are dealing with the same people over and over again for huffing,” said Martinez. “We had a case where we responded to Walmart and found a Sandy man in the bathroom surrounded by empty cans of Dust-Off. He had been there for 12 hours.”

But the most dangerous situations come when people decide to huff and get behind the wheel of a car. “We had someone who was DUI because of huffing,” Martinez said. “His car was damaged. He had hit fences, street signs and parked cars. Huffing can make you impaired, and you can hurt yourself and hurt other people.”

The dangers of huffing and driving were underscored in Chicago, where 19-year-old Carly Rousso was found guilty of aggravated drunken driving following a 2012 incident where she huffed keyboard cleaner and ran into a family on a Highland Park sidewalk, killing a five-year-old girl. Rousso faces 14 years in prison.

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.