|Waiting to Inhale: The Dangers of Huffing|
By Norman Miller
First published by The MetroWest Daily News, Nov. 14, 2008
FRAMINGHAM, MASS. - A Framingham woman arrested Wednesday for the third time in three days for huffing computer cleaning solution is partaking in a highly hazardous and addictive habit, experts said.
Pattie Sherman, 33, was arrested at 4 p.m. in the parking lot at Papa Razzi restaurant on Rte. 9 sniffing computer cleaner from an aerosol can, Deputy Police Chief Craig Davis said.
She was arrested in the same parking lot on Tuesday around 10:45 p.m., and then on Monday around 10:30 p.m. in the Target parking lot.
Huffing, or breathing in inhalants to get high, is not new, and is often used as a cheap way to get high, said Bill Horne, executive director of Genesis, which provides drug counseling in Framingham.
However, Horne said, the habit can be deadly.
"It's really dangerous it's potentially the most dangerous drug anybody can use," he said. "From the initial use, you could have all kinds of damage brain damage, hearts, lungs, etc. It is potentially bad in every respect."
According to the Web site, inhalant.org, an inhalant user experiences a sensation similar to alcohol intoxication, but it only lasts a few minutes, so many users will continually huff to keep the high going.
Huffing, in the short term, can cause headaches, muscle weakness, mood swings, violent behaviour, limb tingling and lethargy.
A user will also become less inhibited, the site said, and people will often experience hallucinations.
The long-term effects include weight loss, lack of coordination, depression, liver damage, kidney damage, hearing loss, limb spasms and damage to the bone marrow and central nervous systems.
Youngsters who huff are most in danger, according to inhalant.org. They can suffer what is known as Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, which occurs when the inhalant causes the heart to beat rapidly, resulting in cardiac arrest.
The most dangerous aspect of inhalants is how accessible they are, Horne said.
"Practically all household products, all business products, all of that stuff can be used," he said. "You can literally use almost every household and business product."
Popular items to use for huffing now are computer cleaning fluids in aerosol cans. Police said Sherman used such items to get high.
The latest incident for Sherman was similar to Tuesday's arrest. Officer Bob Tibor discovered her parked in her car in the restaurant parking lot, sniffing computer cleaner, Davis said.
Tibor was the same officer who arrested her in the same parking lot on Tuesday.
Tibor ordered Sherman out of her car, and she refused, screaming at him. Finally Tibor and a second officer pulled her from the car.
"She started a physical fight with the officers and she kicked one of them in the legs," Davis said.
Sherman, who listed her address as 44 Highland St. on Wednesday, was charged with inhaling intoxicating vapors, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
When Sherman was arrested on Monday and Tuesday, she said she was homeless. She faces similar charges for those incidents, and was also charged with shoplifting in Monday's incident.
Sherman was ordered held without bail after her Framingham District Court arraignment yesterday. She is due back in court on Nov. 26 for a pretrial conference. She had been released without bail on Wednesday after her two previous arrests.
Author Norman Miller can be reached at 508.626.3823 or firstname.lastname@example.org.