Tuesday, December 02, 2008

REMINDER: Volatile Substance Abuse – we want your vie

Dear Colleague

We recently sent you an email asking for your help with a questionnaire about volatile substance abuse (the deliberate inhalation of volatile products such as glues gases and aerosols to achieve intoxication).

We have had a good response so far – and if you have already completed the questionnaire, my apologies for troubling you, please ignore this email.

If you have overlooked the previous email, I would be very grateful if you would take a just few minutes to answer the online questionnaire. Please follow this link, which will take you to the questionnaire, and follow the instructions there:


Thank you very much for your response. Your help will be very valuable to Re-Solv in planning their future work.

If you want to discuss this evaluation or ask any questions, then please get in touch with me.

With my thanks and best wishes

Richard Ives


With a grant from the Big Lottery, Re-Solv, the UK charity concerned with VSA, is investigating professionals’ views on VSA so that the organisation can help you to in your work. educari is carrying out this evaluation for Re-Solv. Your responses are confidential. We will not reveal individual identifiable responses to Re-Solv. This is an independent evaluation and we operate according to ethical guidelines.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

US show Intervention features inhalant abuser

She was a pre-med student on her way to becoming a surgeon, but the trauma of being molested as a child and her parents' brutal divorce haunted Allison. She started to inhale computer dust remover, which is potentially fatal with each breath. Her erratic behavior and absence from classes got Allison dropped from the pre-med program. Allison is currently inhaling up to ten cans of dust remover a day. Can interventionist Jeff help Allison and her family?
To watch this programme on YouTube, click the link below.

Volatile Substance Abuse – we want your views

Dear Colleague

Re-Solv is the UK charity concerned with volatile substance abuse (the deliberate inhalation of volatile products such as glues gases and aerosols to achieve intoxication).

With a grant from the Big Lottery, Re-Solv is investigating professionals’ views on VSA so that the organisation can help you to in your work.

As an independent research company, we are helping Re-Solv with this task. You can help us, by completing an on-line questionnaire – which will only take you a few minutes.

We would be very grateful if you would take a just few minutes to answer this questionnaire. Please follow this link, which will take you to the questionnaire, and follow the instructions there:


Your responses are confidential. We will not reveal individual identifiable responses to Re-Solv.

Thank you very much for your response. Your help will be very valuable to Re-Solv in planning their future work.

If you want to discuss this evaluation or ask any questions then please get in touch with me.

With my thanks

Richard Ives


educari is carrying out this evaluation for Re-Solv. This is an independent evaluation and we operate according to ethical guidelines.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Michigan huffing death

IONIA, Michigan (WOOD) -- After her son's death, apparently from huffing or inhaling a computer dusting spray, Beverly Helms started researching.
She wanted to know more about what Michael Meek had done -- and what it did to him.
Some of what she found makes her worry others are learning exactly how to make the same mistake. Countless online videos capture teenagers and adults huffing.
"There were even a couple of moms spraying it in the face of little toddlers," Helms told 24 Hour News 8.
She registered with one Web site to try and reach the people who posted the videos.
"Just to say this is what happened my little boy," she said. "A 9- or 10-year-old looks at that and thinks, 'It's not going to hurt me,' and they become another statistic."
The statistics are sad. The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition estimates as many as 125 people die from huffing across the country every year. Even one use can kill, damaging the heart, brains and lungs.
Helms found her son, Michael, slouched at the end of his bed one morning in September.
"They found a can of computer duster under his hand," she said.
And so many teens expose themselves to that risk. The 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health concludes roughly 10 percent of US teenagers have huffed in their lifetimes.
"I just want parents to be aware," Helms said.
Aware, she says, because her son wasn't into other drugs or alcohol. His friends told her he always said no thanks. But something made him think huffing would be safe.
And Helms is worried online videos could convey the same false message.
"I think it's absolutely scary and ridiculous that they can even keep them on there," she said. "I would like to see them off."
The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America called on one online video site -- YouTube -- to take huffing videos down. The group says it worked when enough members filed complaints. A group spokeswoman said she believes if moms like Helms find new videos and complain, they too could succeed in getting the videos removed.
Meek was known around town for his love of skateboarding.

taken from woodtv.com

Friday, September 26, 2008

US Teen Pleads Guilty After Crash Injured Friends

SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. -- An Upstate teenager is headed to prison after pleading guilty to two counts of DUI resulting in great bodily injury, but alcohol was not involved.
Heather Hewitt was accused of crashing her car after huffing keyboard cleaner, Spartanburg County police said.
Five friends were passengers in the car that Hewitt was driving, and two of them were critically injured, police said.
Prosecutors said Maranda Poteat will never see through her left eye, and Jamie Maxwell, who suffered a traumatic brain injury, can't talk and is only semi-conscious.
Both girls were passengers in the Toyota Camry Hewitt was driving on a Sunday in September 2007.
"She cannot feed herself. She cannot take care of herself," Maxwell's mother, Pam Maxwell, told the judge.
She said her family is left with almost $700,000 in medical bills so far, and she said she wants Hewitt to be held responsible.
"I don't hate her," Maxwell said "I feel sorry for her because she doesn't value life."
Hewitt entered an Alford plea of guilty, which is an admission that she could be proven guilty in a trial.
Hoping for leniency, her attorneys said she is also a victim because one of her friends in that car gave her the keyboard duster.
Half the courtroom was filled with supporters of Hewitt, and they spoke to the judge about her character, saying she never set out to do any harm.
"She regrets everything that happened every day," Hewitt's boyfriend, Josh Robinson, told the judge.
Sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act, Hewitt will be turned over to the state Department of Corrections and will serve up to six years.
"This has been extremely difficult for her. It's not something she planned on or wanted to happen. It was unfortunate, and we're sad for all involved," Hewitt's third cousin said.
"I wish we could send a message to folks: Any kind of inhalant, drugs or alcohol -- they need to know what ramifications they have," Spartanburg County Principal Deputy Solicitor Barry Barnette said.
The defense brought up questions over whether the duster should actually be considered a drug and whether it meets the statute for felony DUI.
Barnette said this may be the first case of its kind in South Carolina, and his office will prosecute any case like this in the future, he said.
taken from Fox Carolina

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

‘Excessive aerosol use’ caused girls' house blast

AN EXPLOSION which left four teenage girls critically ill in hospital for several weeks was caused by the “excessive use of a large number of aerosol deodorants”, an official inquiry will announce today.
A joint investigation was launched by Dyfed-Powys Police and Mid and West Wales Fire Service after the fire, which blew the roof off a terraced house in Llanelli on December 17.
A file was also submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service, who have decided there is insufficient evidence to prosecute anyone for causing the fire.
But an action plan will now be launched to warn young people of the dangers of aerosols.
Sisters Anya, 15, and Kira Evans, 14, and Kimberly Patterson, 15, and Nadine Fardon, 14, were severely burnt when the fire tore through the sisters’ home in Old Castle Road.
Stunned neighbours reported at the time how the girls ran screaming into the street after the explosion which closed the entire road.
The teenagers spent weeks in intensive care, underwent 10 major skin graft operations – some of which lasted up to a day at a time – had surgery to their hands, arms and legs and were treated for burns on their faces.
They received occupational therapy and physiotherapy, and psychologists were on hand to offer emotional support to the teenagers and their families.
They were also put on special diets, while doctors said it is likely they will need further operations in the future and will continue to be treated on an outpatient basis until they are 18 or 19.
The girls were unable to walk for more than a month after the accident, and Kimberley’s mother, Katrina, told how she burst into tears when she saw her daughter walk again.
“I wasn’t expecting it and I started crying – I was overwhelmed,” she said.
They were gradually eased back into their lessons at Coedcae Comprehensive School and volunteers in Llanelli raised thousands of pounds towards a fund for the girls and their families.
In a joint statement released today, Dyfed-Powys Police and the fire service said: “The investigation concluded that the cause of the fire was as a result of the excessive use of a large number of aerosol deodorants in a confined space being accidentally ignited.
“The use of the aerosols led to the accumulation of flammable gas and vapours in a bedroom without sufficient ventilation.
“The ignition source was a cigarette lighter.
“Following a full investigation, Dyfed-Powys Police submitted a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service.
“The CPS has instructed that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute any person.
“Dyfed-Powys Police and Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service would like to warn people of the dangers of aerosols.
“We are working together with local agencies in a bid to prevent this type of tragic incident from happening in the future.
“Educating young people about the dangers and potential consequences of inappropriate use of aerosols will form part of future community safety education programmes.
“The four girls have now been released from hospital. Their families have asked the media to respect their privacy.”
Mark James, chair of the Carmarthenshire Community Safety Partnership, said: “The partnership is committed to raising awareness of the dangers of volatile substances such as the inappropriate use of aerosols.
“These are also highly flammable so great care must be taken in their day-to-day use, particularly in confined spaces. Parents need to be vigilant about excessive use and we all need to make our children aware of the dangers of misusing aerosols.
“Talks are already given to young people and as part of the partnership’s joint commissioning strategy for substance misuse, an action plan for children and young people will be developed to include additional ways of tackling this important concern.”

taken from WalesOnline

Friday, August 01, 2008

Deaths from VSA in the UK rose in 2006 to 49 from 45 in 2005

A report released today by the Division of Community Health Sciences at St George’s, University of London, reveals that altogether in 2006 there were 49 deaths in the UK associated with volatile substance abuse. The report "Trends in Death Associated with Abuse of Volatile Substances 1971-2006", which was prepared for the Department of Health, describes trends in death associated with the abuse of gas fuels, aerosols, glues, anaesthetic agents and other solvent based products.
In 2006, butane from all sources accounted for 33 of the 49 deaths and of these butane cigarette lighter refills formed the largest group. Five deaths in 2006 were as a result of asphyxia associated with the inhalation of nitrous oxide.
In under-18 year olds there were six deaths resulting from volatile substance abuse in 2006, compared with eight in 2005. Two of these deaths were associated with butane cigarette lighter refills, the sale of which to under-18s is prohibited by legislation.
Deaths were generally sudden and in 2006 were three times more common in males than females. Of the 49 deaths in 2006, ten were suicides involving the inhalation of a volatile substance. For both adults and children volatile substance abuse leading to death usually took place in the home.
Re-Solv is pleased to note that deaths in the under-18 year olds continues to fall. With the introduction this year of our Toxic Agents Primary School pack we are in the best possible position to help keep those figures down.
There is a worrying trend in deaths of long term adult abusers and in VSA being used in suicide. These difficult to address areas will need a strong focus in the coming months and years ahead.
For further details of the St George's Report please click here.
If you would like any further information on Re-Solv's work please see our website or email information@re-solv.org.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Huffing leads to Indiana car explosion

Three area teens are in an Indianapolis hospital today after a car they were in exploded Friday night in Lafayette.

According to police, the three girls were huffing from an aerosol can shortly before the explosion.
Lafayette Police were called to an explosion in the 2000 block of Elk Street on the city's north side at 10:13 p.m. Friday.
According to Lafayette Police Lt. Jim Taul, three 17 year-old girls had been huffing from an aerosol can inside a parked Honda Accord "when one of them decided to light a cigarette."
The flame ignited the fumes, causing an explosion that blew the windows out of the car, he said. "People heard the explosion a block away."
Since they are under 18, the names of the girls are not being released. All three were transported to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Taul said. The extent of their injuries is unclear.
It's not clear if the three will face any charges, Taul said.

taken from jconline.com

Thursday, April 24, 2008

New primary school resource launched

Re-Solv is proud to present “Toxic Agents” - the most detailed resource for primary school age children the we have ever produced.
Toxic Agents has been put together by Re-Solv’s Youth Liaison Officer, Kay Carter, following research and consultation with primary school teachers and students. The resulting pack is one of the most comprehensive available and features wonderful design work by Helen Javes who has worked on Shaun the Sheep and other Aardman Animations productions.
In the report Drugs : Guidance For Schools, the DfES has stated “Drug education should start in primary schools...The transition from primary to secondary is particularly important, given the pattern of young people’s drug use; drug education in Years 7 and 8 should reinforce and build upon drug education in primary schools... VSA needs to be addressed at an early point in the drug education curriculum because of the potential for early onset experimentation, the availability of products open to abuse within the home and school, and the particular dangers posed by VSA.”

The pack includes a 70 page booklet designed to help teachers get the most out of the teaching materials. Also included are a 7 minute DVD, 30 leaflets, 30 character postcards and stickers.
The pack retails for £35 and can be ordered from the publications section on our website.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Grieving Mom: Can of compressed air can kill

Kaitlyn Vallery was a 16-year-old girl fighting a drug problem. She’d tried marijuana and cocaine but that’s not what killed her said her mother Cheri. “Heard the water running in the bathroom still and that’s when the sense of panic came over me.”
Panic from the water running too long after Kaitlyn went to take a bath.
They found her with a can of Freon-laced compressed air dusting spray nearby.
Kaitlyn, her mother says, had inhaled it to get high, passed out and drowned. “We were in the hospital saying our final goodbyes to her.”
Goodbyes voiced two years ago. But for Cheri and Jon Vallery the pain and the promises to their daughter live on.
“I made a promise to her that night that I would do whatever I could to make sure no one else had to go through the pain the heartache we were feeling that night,” said Cheri.
That was the beginning of Kaitlyn’s Promise.
It is a website that educates teens about the dangers of inhalant abuse.
It is a problem on par with illegal drug use. It’s where spray cans, lighters, and other household products are the source of a cheap and sometimes deadly high.
The latest studies have shown that by eighth grade one in five teenagers have tried this.
And they’re not just learning it from their friends.
Like anything else these days, it’s glamorized on the internet too.
To fight this, the Vallery’s will take their story to Washington DC later this week.
They plan to tell a nationwide audience about the dangers and about the daughter they lost. “Oh I have to. I’m still her mom and this is what I’m doing for her, “ said Cheri.
She does that while hoping no other mom will have to do the same.
taken from KHOU.com

US Teens Prefer Inhalants to Marijuana, Researchers Say

Studies by the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, with sponsorship from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, revealed that kids on the brink of being teenagers are using inhalants more often than marijuana and prescription painkillers.
According to these studies, inhaling common household products such as shoe polish, glue, aerosol air fresheners, hair sprays, nail polish, paint solvents, degreasers, gasoline and lighter fluid now appear to be the preferred way to get high in this age group.
About 3.4 percent of 12-year-olds reported using an inhalant, while only 1.1 percent tried marijuana, and 2.7 percent took prescription painkillers in 2007. That trend continued with 13-year-olds, with 4.8 percent using inhalants, 4 percent trying marijuana, and 3.9 percent taking prescription painkillers. By age 14, inhalant use dropped behind the use of marijuana, painkillers and other drugs.
“Our data show that 1.1 million 12-to-17-year-olds acknowledge using inhalants last year. Our data also indicate that there are almost 600,000 teenagers [who] start using inhalants annually,” Dr. H. Westley Clark, director of the U.S. Center for Substance Abuse, said Thursday, according to Forbes.
Adolescent girls seem particularly vulnerable to inhalant abuse. According to the report, 41 percent of hospital admissions for inhalant abuse involved teenage girls, whereas only 30 percent of hospital admissions for non-inhalant drug abuse involved teen girls.
Dr. Clark added that short-term effects of inhalants include dizziness, nausea, confusing and lack of coordination. They can also cause neurological damage, along with sudden death from cardiac reactions or lack of oxygen. An exact number of adolescent dying from inhalants is not known though.
“Once kids start using inhalants, they are more susceptible to using other drugs like marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine as they age. Inhalants can produce psychological effects, but because they're readily accessible they are substitutes for other drugs,” Dr. Clark said.
He urged parents to be aware that preteens and young teenagers are at risk for using inhalants, just as older teens are, and they should be discussing these issues with their children.
“Parents should be able to clearly explain that inhalants are not drugs of abuse, but deadly poisons that while they may produce an effect also produce unintended consequences,” Dr. Clark said.
The studies also found that forty five percent of teens who used inhalants suffer from psychiatric disorders, compared with 29 percent of teens who used other drugs.

taken from eFluxMedia

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Essex Shop owners warned over solvent sales

03 March 2008 06:47


SHOP owners in Essex will be punished if they sell solvents to people under the age of 18, trading standards officers have warned.

It follows random testing during which 10% of shops supplied a youngster with lighter fuel. Throughout February Essex County Council Trading Standards conducted test sales for solvents at 50 stores across the county, using an underage volunteer.

Five stores broke the law by agreeing to sell the test purchaser, a 14-year-old girl.

On each occasion the volunteer, who was supervised throughout the process, attempted to purchase butane lighter refills.

Statistics show that these account for the majority of deaths among people using them for intoxication purposes, due to volatile substance abuse (VSA). A number of shops visited also indicated that they would have made the sale, but were out of stock or unable to locate their supply.

Trading Standards officers re-visited these retailers to advise them on age restricted sales. The stores visited included both smaller independent stores and major retail chains.

Trading Standards officers said they were concerned that some retailers still believe that the legal age for purchasing solvents is 16, rather than 18.

Statistics compiled by St George's University of London show that VSA is responsible for more deaths amongst young people aged 10-16 than “conventional” illegal drugs.

Roger Walters, county council executive member for Trading Standards said: “Solvent abuse is a serious problem, which is why these products should not be made available to young people under the age of 18. “There is simply no excuse for stores to flout the law on this.“We are planning to conduct more test sales for solvents, and any retailers who continue to ignore our warnings can expect to be punished severely.”

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lighter fumes kill Caernarfon 23-yr-old

Feb 28 2008

A YOUNG man has died after sniffing lighter fuel in a tragic experiment which went wrong.
Gareth William Watkin Hughes, 23, had been sniffing the fuel in the back of a friend’s car near Bangor.
To their horror, he stopped breathing and collapsed.
His friends called for an ambulance which rushed him to Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor.
Doctors put him on a life support machine but it was too late to save him.
Gareth, a mechanic of Cil Isaf, Caernarfon, known to his friends as Gags, died later that night, last Saturday.
His family said yesterday that they wished to warn others of the dangers of sniffing lighter fuel.
Gareth, one of seven siblings, had gone out with friends, who, it is believed, were experimenting with the lighter fuel in a friend’s car at Glasinfryn near Bangor.
Gareth’s fiancĂ©e, Ceri Roberts, 18, of Yr Hendre, Caernarfon, said she first knew something was wrong when she received a phone call from one of his friends telling her to go to hospital.
She told the Daily Post: “We don’t know much at the moment but believe he’d taken lighter fuel.
“He’d gone with a mate to see one of their other friends.
“One of his friends phoned me to tell me to go to casualty.
“He was a lovely young man and liked going out with his friends.
“He was great with kids – his nephews and niece – and they adored him.
“When we got engaged Gareth said he’d marry me one day.
“We had planned on having children.”
The couple had been together for four years.
One of Gareth’s sisters, Emma Hughes, 26, from Hiraul, Bangor, said: “Unfortunately Gareth and his friends were playing around with lighter fuel – with tragic consequences for him.
“It was the first time he’d ever done it.
“He stopped breathing. His friend phoned for an ambulance.
“He collapsed and was put on a life-support machine but his heart wasn’t working.
“We want to warn people about the dangers of experimenting or playing with lighter fuel.
“We hope this will be a lesson for others.
“It was a terrible and unexpected shock.
“An inquest is going to be held into what was a tragic accident. From what we know, the post-mortem has not yet been concluded.”
Emma added: “He was easy-going and always had a smile on his face. He always wore a baseball hat.
“He liked messing about with and fixing cars. His other interests were fishing and playing golf.”
Gareth worked as a mechanic at Vixen Steels, Llanberis.
He had been brought up in Dyffryn Nantlle and attended Ysgol Talysarn and Ysgol Baladeulyn before the family moved to Caernarfon and he went to Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen.
Since the tragedy his friends have painted “In loving memory” on the side of his souped-up Nova car.
A North Wales police spokeswoman yesterday confirmed that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Gareth Hughes’s death and the coroner had been informed.

by Hywel Trewyn, Daily Post

Friday, January 25, 2008

40,000 young Thais victims of additive inhalant

BANGKOK, JAN 25 (TNA)--At least 40,000 young Thais, mostly from poor families, are addicted to breathing inhalants, with the use of inhalants ranking third among addictive drugs in Thailand, an anti-narcotics official said Friday.
Deputy Director General of the Narcotics Control and Suppression Board, Pitaya Jinawat, said young people are easily lured to inhalant use due to its cheap price and the authorities' ignorance to crack down on illegal inhalant trading and consumption has resulted in the widespread distribution of the substance.
He called on traders to help control the distribution of inhalants to young people. At the same time he appealed to the private sector not to reject employing inhalant addicts who are rehabilitated.
Mr. Pitaya said police usually ignored arresting inhalant addicts to avoid the burden of having to send them for rehabilitation while some rehabilitation centres or hospitals would not admit the young people for treatment.
However, a law amending the Inhalant Prevention Act which will be in force in July this year will impose harsher punishment against those selling the substances to young people and allow addict to undergo medical treatment before an indictment, he said.
The law also raises the age of young people allowed to buy inhalants from 17 to 18 years of age, Mr. Pitaya said, admitting that young addicts can easily ask their older peers to buy inhalant for them. (TNA)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Confessions of a Gasoline Huffer

How It Happened, Why I Did It, What It Felt Like
by Brendan Kiley
Fran Handford was a retired schoolteacher who sat in a rocking chair, smoking long white cigarettes with shaky hands and listening to public radio. She and her husband Dana lived in the woods on Bainbridge Island, just down the road from my parents. Dana was tall and thin and drank a glass of buttermilk every day at lunch to keep his weight up. He saved his pee in a bucket by the back door to pour onto his compost pile. He was a psychiatrist and had been associated, in the 1950s, with the first American psychiatrists to study psychedelics. The Handfords had an impressionist landscape over the fireplace, by a friend of theirs. Fran once pointed at it and said, in her quavering old-lady voice, "I think he painted that after he had taken El-Es-Dee."
I was their primary gardener and houseboy that summer. I got $8 an hour and a pair of surrogate grandparents. They sometimes hired additional help: an ex-con named Tony who lived in a halfway house, a 25-year-old stoner named Eric who still lived with his parents. As a teenager, I liked being around ex-cons and stoners and always fell for the racy girls who took drugs and skipped class. (At the time, I was dating a girl who lived in Seattle—even racier. Sex was still a pleasant mystery, but getting closer every day.) They made me feel tougher by association. On Saturdays, I came over to weed, prune, fix, paint, sweep, and mow. Burn days were the best, when I'd stand around all afternoon with a rake, watching a fire twice as tall as I was incinerate the detritus from the previous year's windstorms and yard projects.
The Handfords' house had peeling red paint and an old wisteria vine strangling the front porch. Inside, it was like a library where people happened to live. Books covered and sometimes tumbled off of shelves in every room—the kitchen, the bathroom, the hallways. There were books on the floor. They were good books, books Fran encouraged me to read: Slaughterhouse-Five, Mrs. Dalloway, Catch-22; nonfiction by Isaiah Berlin, Arthur Schlesinger, Winston Churchill; poetry by Dylan Thomas, E. E. Cummings, and T. S. Eliot. I read on the job, stealing time from them—time I was supposed to be weeding, pruning, and fixing. They knew: They were saints that way. They thought that any time I spent with a book would be good for me.
I took more books from their house than anyone can remember, and dutifully returned them—with one exception. I was too embarrassed to ask to borrow it. The book: Altered States of Consciousness: A Book of Readings, a 575-page collection of essays, written by psychologists and psychiatrists, published in 1969. It has a stained white dust jacket with a line drawing of a bald man meditating and some EKG scribbles in black, red, and green.
I crouched in the Handfords' basement, next to the box where I found it, flipping through its pages. Some passages were hypnotically opaque, about "autogenic training" and "psychophysiology" and other jargon I didn't understand. Some were druggy but erudite, like where William James explains how getting high on nitrous oxide helped him "understand better than ever before both the strength and weakness of Hegel's philosophy." Some were just druggy (I imagined this spoken in a soft man's voice, like something you'd hear from a groovy 1960s British movie): "Shortly after swallowing the pill, I began to feel the effects. I was looking at the green grass and green hills of the countryside. Slowly the green changed into a lavender... My body was deep purple. It was an extremely pleasant sensation. It resembled sleeping between covers of purple velvet, an experience which I had at one time in my life and which was very sensuously enjoyable."
I took the book home.
That night, sitting in bed, I read an essay by Dr. Frederick B. Glaser called "Inhalation Psychosis and Related States." Dr. Glaser studied people who huffed gasoline, glue, and other organic solvents. He was a writer whose subjects seemed like characters, entire lives evoked in details. The child who "used a dispersion principle, distributing gasoline over the surface of a large salad bowl and then inhaling, somewhat after the technique of the brandy snifter." The Swedish kids who "placed paint thinner in perfume sprayers and sold sniffs to their habituated classmates." The tenacious Texas kid whose parents chained him up to keep him from huffing, but who "broke free by dint of remarkable effort... the boy achieved newspaper notoriety as 'The Sniffer.'"
Dr. Glaser had me. I wondered and began to care, along with him, why research showed a high rate of huffing among Latinos but "in a Chicago study which found Negroes to be well represented among juvenile alcoholics and in the city population, there were no Negro inhalers." I was absorbed in the mystery of the weirdo who began huffing when he was 33. I wanted to know who these people were, what their lives were like. They were distant and foreign, people whose lives I couldn't imagine. What did they do every day? What did they know that I didn't? I wished I could talk to them. I wished I could join their society. Like any kid, I wanted secrets, wanted a life of my own. Now that I'm almost 30, I've got more secrets than I want.
One Saturday at the Handfords', I took a squat, silver canister of gas, used to fill the weed whacker, from the shed. I walked into the woods, sat on a soft bed of brown needles at the bottom of a cedar tree, and unscrewed the lid. I put my mouth to the aperture and inhaled. I felt the thick fumes reaching like tentacles down my throat and into my stomach. There was a strange sound, like the echoing call of a bird I'd never heard before. The bird I imagined was dark blue, almost black. The tree I was sitting beneath began to sway. The tree became sentient and uprooted itself, and then fell over, grew four legs, and invited me onto its back. I don't remember it walking the eight miles to town, but suddenly there we were, in the middle of the street, me straddling a tree. We were in a parade, like the one that happens on the island every Fourth of July, with vets in their jeeps and farmers on their tractors. I waved at all the people on the sidewalk, hoping they didn't realize I was high on gasoline.
When I came to and stumbled out of the woods, dazed, my legs weren't working properly. I lurched back into the garden of perennials I was supposed to be weeding, a garden at the edge of a bluff, and kneeled in the wet mud, hoping nobody would find me. A few hours later, I could almost walk and talk normally, and went home.
Gasoline was stronger than any drug I'd heard of—it took me out of the world altogether. It had to be bad for me. I remembered histrionic news stories and public-service-announcement language about the dangers of huffing. A contemporary sample, from www.drgreene.com: "About 22 percent of those who die from huffing do so on the first time they try it... When huffing doesn't kill quickly, it damages the body each time—especially the brain. Huffing can cause memory loss, impaired concentration, hearing loss, loss of coordination, and permanent brain damage... if you suspect or discover that your child is huffing, get professional help. Treating inhalant abuse is very difficult and requires expert intervention."
It didn't make sense for me to be a gas huffer. I wasn't desperate like the people in Davis Inlet, on the Labrador coast, who became famous for gas huffing in the early 1990s. The major pastimes in Davis Inlet were suicide, drinking moonshine, and not graduating from high school. Families froze inside one-room concrete shacks and domestic violence was common, but Canada didn't do anything about it until 1993, when a police officer released a videotape of six Davis Inlet children huffing gasoline and screaming that they wanted to die. The Canadian government's solution was to build a new town, Natuashish, 15 kilometers away, for residents of Davis Inlet who wanted to start over.
Huffing has been such a problem among Australian aboriginal kids that, in 2005, the oil company BP invented a new kind of "unsniffable" fuel called Opal. (The BP website quotes an e-mail from a social worker: "...as I write, I can see a 10-year-old girl outside the window with half a Coke bottle filled with unleaded petrol tied over her mouth and nose. She may well never reach her 12th birthday.") Consider that: So many people were huffing that a multinational oil company told its scientists to invent a new kind of gas.
I wasn't a poor kid, but I'd seen poor kids fucked up by huffing, during the spring before my gasoline summer, when I was an exchange student in Nicaragua. I visited a shelter for urchins, some of them little tiny kids, who wandered the markets of Managua, begging for pennies to spend on baby-food jars filled with rubber cement they bought from shoe repairmen. The glue made them feel warm, full, and happy—the opposite of how they normally felt. It also made them vicious. They had nasty fights over food, territory, and imagined slights, slashing at each other with shards of broken glass. The kids in the shelter were covered in scars and nicks. All of us—the urchins, the people who took care of them, some other exchange students—took a bus to Lake Nicaragua one afternoon. We ran around on the beach and splashed in the brown water. On the way back, I sat in the back of the bus, teaching the kids poker. They stole my wallet and passed it to the front, one of them waving it in the air and smiling before throwing it back to me.
I said I thought it was funny, but one of the social workers—a pretty, middle-aged woman—rebuked me. These kids learn to steal because they're addicts, she growled. And the goddamned shoe repairmen are goddamned pushers. There's nothing cute about children addicted to toxic solvents.
The next Saturday, I snuck back into the shed and sat next to the squat silver canister. I unscrewed the cap, leaned over the aperture, felt the vaporous tentacles reach into my stomach, and heard the call of the dark-blue bird. A small fairy girl, as tall as my forearm, appeared. She didn't make any real words, but communicated by telepathy and giggling and I admired her wings, all translucent and shiny. She lived in the rose bushes and let me know that these gardens and woods were a special place, a place I'd never been able to really see until now. There was another sound, in a minor key, and the air turned sinister. The toys and tools in the shed—tricycles, pruners, riding lawn mowers—were rumbling, rustling angrily, forming an army that could crush me with wheels, cut me with blades, bludgeon me with handles. I was an interloper, a spy in the secret, vengeful lives of toys and tools. I hoped they wouldn't hurt the Rosebush Fairy.
I came to, lying on the floor of the shed, thinking that we lived in a world in which objects conspired against people. I held onto the idea for a while.
It was the same every Saturday for three or four months: the rasp of the lid as I unscrewed it, the sloshing gasoline, the tentacles reaching into my stomach, the dark-blue bird. The Rosebush Fairy usually came to giggle and preen and communicate fairy-tale secrets about the forests and gardens. I wish I could remember the things she told me.
My breath stunk of gasoline for days at a time. I'd come back from the Handfords' and my mother would ask where that gasoline smell was coming from. I'd say I'd been using the weed whacker, quickly finish my glass of water, and hurry upstairs to shower. Later, at dinner, she'd mention I still smelled like gasoline. I'd shrug. The next day, I might see my girlfriend who lived in the city. When she kissed me, she'd say my mouth tasted like a gas station. Somehow, nobody figured it out.
One Saturday after work, I was at my parents' house listening to old records—I'd just learned how to work the phonograph and there were stacks of neglected vinyl in the Handfords' basement—when I distinctly heard the call of the dark-blue bird. It came out of the speakers. I checked the record. The call of the bird matched the first chord of Bach's second orchestral suite in B minor, when the violins begin to trill over the harpsichord. I wondered what that meant. I thought about the Rosebush Fairy. I realized I had a crush on her, which was both embarrassing and crazy. Even crazier, I wondered: What about my girlfriend? Was I cheating on her by liking this fairy? I wasn't doing anything with the fairy, just talking.
Upstairs, I re-reread Dr. Glaser's essay and stopped on this sentence, which I had barely noticed before: "On a rather impressionistic level it may be noted that a general feeling of eroticism pervades many reports of inhalation." Likewise, I stopped on the story of a 5-year-old boy who
had a pleasant hallucination of friendly, gnomelike men who were fond of him and spoke kindly to him. At this time, parental discord was intense. The patient felt like his father was abusive and severe with him. 'Father heckled me and gave my mother and me heck at everything I did.' Because of this, he began to plot with the men of his hallucinations to remove his father. He said, 'I want to make Father go away so I can go off someplace with Mom and we can make a living together and be happy on a farm.' His hallucinations promised to help him if he would never call again. Quite by coincidence, the father left on a three weeks' trip about this time.
Wish fulfillment. The kid had his gnomes. And I was having an affair with a fairy.
At some point that summer, I was at a typically druggy high-school party, with beer in the kitchen, cigarettes on the lawn, and a bunch of people sitting in a circle in the bedroom with a lava lamp, passing around a pot pipe. The house belonged to a waitress from Spokane and an aspiring acid dealer. These weren't really my friends, but I was happy to be included. Next to me on the couch was Jim, who had studs in his jacket and played guitar in a Bainbridge Island band and was on the high-school debate team. I wanted to say something to him, but I didn't know what, so I asked if he had ever huffed gasoline.
His laugh said: Oh yeah—gasoline. My old friend.
I told him about the secret walks into the woods, the hallucinations—everything except the Rosebush Fairy. That was too embarrassing.
"How could a drug be that powerful?" I asked. "Like I'm right out of my head?"
"Um," he said, "it makes cars go."
One Saturday, my racy girlfriend came from the city to visit me after I finished work. Like every Saturday when everyone else thought I was working, I'd been in the woods huffing. I'd unscrewed the lid, heard the call of the dark-blue bird, and seen the Rosebush Fairy. She'd giggled, showed me her wings, but seemed different somehow. She wasn't happy and ethereal—she was weirdly flirty and erotic. She batted her eyes, wiggled her ass, and leered. She was hungry and gross, a portent from the adult future of crude, selfish sex. She didn't want to communicate secrets or even kiss me—she wanted to fuck. I wasn't sure how to fuck. It was horrifying. Then she lifted her skirt over her head.
If I weren't in a stupor, I would've screamed.
I'd known what I was doing was dangerous—that inhaling gasoline, that thing that makes cars go, was probably giving me brain damage. But, until this moment, I'd almost hoped it would give me brain damage. Putting my mouth to the metal aperture and feeling the tentacles reaching down my throat was an attempt to stay innocent and dumb, to spare myself the sadness and disenchantment of growing up. Getting my first pubic hair fucked me up. Pubic hair meant puberty, puberty meant adulthood, and adulthood meant pain, suffering, and death. I was sentimental for childhood even while I was still a child. Gasoline was a way to dodge the flat, sterile doom of adulthood. I wanted to stay in the woods.
I stumbled out of the woods and saw my girlfriend. She was just standing there. She'd come early.
My legs wouldn't work, my tongue was too thick to form words, and I couldn't do anything but feel bad. She didn't know anything about my gasoline habit except having tasted it in my mouth. She watched me lurch around on the grass, gabbling, reeking of fumes. She panicked. She cried. I tried to explain, but she didn't understand and neither did I.
One night six months ago, I was sitting outdoors in Eastern Washington, in a circle with some friends, and the conversation failed. One drunk woman said, all in one breath: "Let'stellsecretsIstealthings." She paused. "I shoplift."
We went around the circle and people unloaded their secrets: eavesdropping on sex, reading other people's diaries. When it was my turn, I knew which secret I wanted to unload, the one I didn't want anymore—I'd never talked about gasoline huffing with anyone except that guy at that party years ago, never told anyone about Altered States of Consciousness or the Rosebush Fairy or how, to this day, the opening chord of Bach's second orchestral suite makes me woozy. But I didn't. I held onto it a little longer. I told another secret, one I wasn't genuinely embarrassed about.
The Handfords died a few years ago, but I still have Altered States of Consciousness. It sits on a lower shelf in a bookcase in my closet. That shelf is for embarrassments from my youth—forgotten magazines that published stories I'd written, notebooks full of childish poems and adolescent confessions, scrapbooks with pictures of ex-girlfriends. It's the shelf where I keep things I wish I could get rid of.

taken from The Stranger

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Opal fuel can kill, inquest told

A NEW "non-sniffable" fuel designed to combat petrol sniffing in Aboriginal communities can kill when inhaled, an inquest has been told.
A 12-year-old boy died after sniffing Opal fuel at Hermannsburg, 120 kilometres west of Alice Springs, after a youth disco in April this year.
His death is the first known casualty from sniffing the new fuel, which has much lower levels of the aromatics that provide sniffers with a "high" when compared with standard unleaded petrol.
Made by BP, Opal has been credited with dramatically reducing petrol sniffing in Aboriginal communities since first being introduced in 2005, and has since been rolled out across central Australia.
But an inquest in Alice Springs was told yesterday that the boy who died was a regular sniffer and his case would be "of some public interest" because of the broadly held belief Opal is not harmful if inhaled.
"(There is) a perception that Opal fuel is not able to be sniffed and indeed … BP refers to it as 'Opal non-sniffable'," counsel assisting the coroner Celia Kemp told the inquest.
"Your honour will hear evidence that this is not the case. Like any volatile substance, Opal can be sniffed, and can be fatal when sniffed. However, it is much less appealing to sniffers because it does not cause them to become high in the way unleaded petrol does."
The case was adjourned to March.

taken from The Age