Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sue Scheff: Community Warning About Inhalant Abuse

Parents in Montezuma County, Colorado are being warned of the dangers of inhalants for their teens, especially in using computer dusters.

One concerned parent in the area who wished to remain anonymous said that her daughter had been involved in a car crash after she drove after huffing computer duster. The duster caused her to lose consciousness and the car went out of control. Her daughter does not remember any of the accident.

“She was out of her mind,” the mother said. “I did not know that kids were doing this.”

The mother said her daughter had heard of the practice when watching a movie called “Thirteen.” She reported that her daughter knows at least 15 other teenagers offhand who are using Dust-Off or a product like it to get high, and that her other middle school-aged daughter had also heard about numerous students using compressed air as an inhalant.

Before her daughter had the car accident, the mother had never heard of using this product as a drug, she said.

“I feel like, the kids know about it but I don’t think the parents know about it,” she said.

Diane Fox, the Montezuma-Cortez High School Resource Officer, says "I’m not naive enough to think that it’s not happening, just because we're not catching it a lot.”

Retailers around the community have already placed some restrictions on computer dusters, such as Wal-Mart, which,

"does not carry the product branded as Dust-Off, but the similar product that they do carry for dusting off computers has an age restriction on it," said Ashley Hardie, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart.

When the product is scanned at the register, the cashier is prompted to ensure the person purchasing the product is over 18.

However, according to the mother of the girl who drove while under the influence of inhalants,
her daughter

"obtained compressed air from Wal-Mart, but said the teen and her friend stole the product, knowing that they could not legally buy it from the store."

Taylor, the Mancos counselor, said locking the product behind a secure area might be a more effective way of keeping it away from teens.

Would this be as effective as Taylor believes? If the computer dusters were locked away at Wal-Mart, either teens could ask an 18-year-old friend to buy it for them, or they could stop by another office supply store without the restrictions. Or, they may settle for a different kind of inhalant.

Story courtesy of Stephanie Paige Ogburn, of the Cortez Journal.

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