Tuesday, February 28, 2012

VSA Headlines: Dec 2011 - Jan 2012

The media furore this month surrounding reports of Demi Moore's collapse after allegedly inhaling nitrous oxide or 'laughing gas' has highlighted the risks involved with this form of 'legal high'.

Harvey Weiss, Director of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition in the US, commented: "Media reports noted that the intentional use or misuse of nitrous oxide by an adult is an unusual occurrence, but is it? According to the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Health and Drug Abuse, the number one inhalant used during an adult’s lifetime is nitrous oxide."

Here in the UK, the International Centre for Drug Policy charts annual deaths from volatile substance misuse, including nitrous oxide. Their most recent report, published in 2010, notes that "in 2008 there were two deaths (three in 2007) associated with the inhalation of nitrous oxide, which had been obtained for non-medical purposes" (see vsareport.org).

Also in December and January:


Coroner warns against sniffing lighter fluid after Kinver chef's death
: Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Gittins said Mr Down had apparently been seeking a “high” by inhaling the butane but appeared to have had an intolerance to alcohol and the gas.

Paramedic suspended for abusing laughing gas: An East Midlands paramedic has been suspended after he was found inhaling laughing gas and driving an emergency ambulance.


With teen son in coma, Gunter father warns of dangers of 'huffing'
(Gunter, TX): A Texoma father has a warning for teens who engage in "huffing" after a tragic accident last week left his son fighting for his life.

Third plea entered in teen death (Ardmore, OK): A 20-year-old woman, accused with two codefendants in the New Year’s Day “huffing” death of a 15-year-old Ardmore girl, has pleaded no contest to first-degree manslaughter.

Hit and run suspect pleads guilty; admits to 'huffing' (Clay, NY): A man admitted Monday morning that he was the driver of a car in a deadly hit and run.

Details Emerge from DUI Wreck (Folsom, CA): Michael Sharp admitted to inhaling nitrous oxide while driving. Sharp’s vehicle crossed the center divide, jumped a curve, and hit a car head on, killing brothers Todd Ohlander and Chris Martell.

Driver high before crash that killed St. Louis mother: Police say the driver who plowed through a filling station in September 2010, killing a mother of two who had stopped for gas, had huffed freon before getting behind the wheel and was also high on a mix of oxycodone and marijuana.

Grand jury indicts driver in fatal crash
(Morganton, TX): Among other indictments, Lee, 16, is charged with two counts of homicide by vehicle, eight counts of serious injury by vehicle, and driving under the influence of an inhalant.

Casper officials say more people getting high through huffing
(Casper, WY): Sitting in a treatment specialist’s dimly lit office one day last week, a dark-haired woman explained how one can costs roughly $5. She went through 15 or 20 a day. Each one lasted about 45 minutes. Each hit brought a short-lived but powerful high. A separate story focused on city council concerns that inhalant abuse in Casper is on the rise.

Idaho Army vet: Huffing is ‘a cheap thrill’ that wrecks lives: Aaron D. Draper wishes he never tried huffing compressed air in 2005 while serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq. Now he is in jail and waiting for a chance to get back into substance abuse treatment.


The Winnipeg Free Press has been running a series of stories to illustrate the complex issue of solvent abuse, including the following:

Long Road to Recovery: Ex-solvent addict, Marvin Sumner tells his story.

Life at rock bottom: Solvent sniffers live in a mental, medical hell of their own: Some treatment centres won't take solvent addicts because of the incredible bundle of problems they have - everything from severe mental illness to the effects of years of traumatic abuse to problems with basic life skills. In a way, sniffing to escape those problems is a logical choice.

Dangerous solvent sales...: It takes about five minutes on Main Street to spot a solvent dealer.

Rehab not geared to sniffers: Treatment experts say most residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs aren't long enough and aren't equipped to deal with the damage solvents do to the body, everything from brain damage to kidney failure. But there is no solvent-specific treatment program for adults in Winnipeg, or anywhere in Canada, for that matter.

Other related stories include:

Poet, father lost inside a sniff rag
What ever became of baby Sniffy?


Law change could save lives of petrol sniffers: Post by Blair McFarland, the co-ordinator of Central Australian Youth Link-Up Service in Alice Springs, written "in an effort to galvanise the WA Parliament into introducing volatile substance abuse prevention (VSAP) legislation."

Compulsory treatment push for Aboriginal petrol sniffers
: The scourge of petrol sniffing in remote Aboriginal communities is leading Western Australia's mental health minister to push for new laws that would force sniffers into treatment programs.

Action over deodorant 'sniffers'
: Coles South Hedland has employed a security guard to watch the supermarket's deodorant aisle after a spate of solvent abuse incidents.

New Zealand

Dunedin teen dies after 'huffing' butane: The death of a young Dunedin man from inhaling butane gas should serve as a warning that anyone who plays the odds can lose at any time, no matter who they are, his family says.

Huffing fly spray led to death: Otago-Southland coroner David Crerar recommended in his findings into the death of Mamahere Francis Taana, 21, at her Calton Hill, Dunedin, home on February 17, ''that further publicity be given to the dangers of inhalant abuse".


Creative ways to help reform teen offenders: The 10 boys and girls, guided by two art therapists, are trying to find their way out of inhalant abuse.


Inhalant drug abuse on the rise among adults: According to a study published in the East Asian Psychiatry Archives in its December issue, between January 2008 and December 2009, 36 patients reported with similar addictions at RML’s de-addiction centre. Eight-six per cent of these were adolescents, and the mean age of initiation of the abuse was only 13.7 years. “This is a fairly neglected area of psychiatric research. Due to its seemingly low prevalence in comparison to problems like alcoholism, many experts neglect it,” said Dr Rohit Verma of RML, lead author of the study. He said the figures were taken from only one hospital and only present the tip of the iceberg. Most people, he said, never seek medical help due to ignorance.

Children of a lesser god... on Kolkata's streets: More and more children prone to solvent addiction are being afflicted with sexually transmitted diseases in Kolkata.

For homeless Delhi kids, winter means more sedatives: About 80 percent of the capital's 50,000 homeless children use diluter fluid, boot polish, 'beedis', rubber tubes and even cough syrups to fight the cold, say activists.


Glue sniffing in Karachi: Glue-sniffing is considered the most popular form of addiction after tobacco and alcohol.

South Africa

Glue-sniffer’ gang terrorising shoppers: A gang of glue-sniffing vagrants operating in central Durban are terrorising shoppers and are to blame for a string of crimes, businessmen claim.