Florida Lobbyist And Bush Supporter Dies From Huffing Overdose

By May Wilkerson 01/18/16

Fred Leonhardt was a prominent Republican Party supporter despite his history with huffing.

Jeb Bush

Fred Leonhardt, a prominent Florida lobbyist and fundraiser for Bush, died at 65 years old from a huffing overdose, an autopsy report revealed last week.

Leonhardt was a major contributor to the Republican party and actively involved in raising money for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former president George W. Bush. He died on October 10 from intoxication of ethyl chloride, a chemical intended for medical purposes that is frequently inhaled or “huffed” as a recreational drug, said the autopsy. His death was ruled accidental.

"He loved his family, he loved his community, he loved politics and he loved life," said former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Dean Cannon, a friend and former co-worker of Leonhardt.

The report added that Leonhardt had a “history of huffing,” and that heart problems had also contributed to his death. “One of the real dangers of huffing it is that it makes you more prone to heart arrhythmia,” said Timothy Huckaby, medical director of the Orlando Recovery Center.

Huffing is the street term for abuse of inhalants, or the vaporized form of various substances like glue, petrol or other solvents. It also includes inhaling the nitrous oxide gasses from aerosol containers, like whipped cream cans—a.k.a. “whip its”—hairspray, and non-stick frying spray.

Depending on the substance used, huffing can cause feelings similar to drunkenness, and larger doses have been known to cause hallucinations, violent behavior and loss of consciousness. Inhaling propane and butane gasses can create an intense rush that some have compared to injecting drugs like cocaine or heroin.

Huffing, even just once, can be fatal. Though Huckaby said that deaths from huffing are uncommon, and usually occur among teens and young people. Police say huffing is a rising problem across the country and there are an estimated 100-125 deaths a year from inhalant abuse.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.