FOND DU LAC, Wis. (WFRV) – Inhalants are in the news right now after a criminal complaint alleges the driver of the car that crashed into the Verizon Store in Fond du Lac last week told police he was huffing air duster before the crash

Huffing is a form of inhalant abuse when somebody purposely inhales the fumes of substances like paint or aerosol sprays. The chemicals are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream and then go to the brain and other organs, so the effects are almost immediate.

Inhalants include everything from gasoline, aerosol sprays, paint, and glue.

Short-term effects can include slurred speech, motor movement impairment, dizziness, and euphoria. These immediate effects of inhalant use are similar to those of alcohol and those abusing inhalants may appear drunk.

Inhalant abuse can also cause asphyxiation, suffocation from choking on one’s own vomit, convulsion or seizures, and comas.

“Don’t do it, don’t even experiment with it, there could be brain damage involved right away it doesn’t have to be the second, third or eighth time, it could impact you for the rest of your life (on your first try),” said Joe Longo who is on the Board of Directors of the Beacon House in Fond du Lac. The nonprofit helps those battling drug and alcohol addiction recover.

Teenagers are the most common age group to abuse inhalants because of how readily available they are, as items like aerosol sprays or paint can be found around most houses.

Inhalants can be addictive and very dangerous.

“Most of it lasts for only a few minutes, but in that few minute time, you are oblivious to what is going on around you,” said Longo.

“It’s very dangerous, it affects the lungs, the brain, and it can do a pretty significant amount of damage in a short amount of time,” said Wendy Compton, who is the marketing director with Beacon House.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, about 2.2 million Americans reported inhalant use in 2021. Experts said there are several signs that people can pick up on that indicate a loved one may be abusing inhalants.

“Further investigation is best to see if they have the products in their room or in their car or anything like that,” said Compton.

Compton said that rags or plastic bags lying around could also be a sign of inhalant abuse. Chemical odors on somebody’s breath or clothing or paint or other stains on the face, hands, or clothes are other signs that somebody may be abusing inhalants. 

Compton and Longo said it’s important for parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of drug use. If you or somebody you know is struggling with drug addiction, they said it’s important to reach out for help.