The use of an inhalant — or “huffing” — likely was the cause of death for a Wayne County man found dead in April in a Goldsboro parking lot, according to an autopsy the News-Argus reported on Wednesday.
Huffing is substance abuse that involves inhaling fumes from household products to experience a high. Also known as sniffing or inhalant abuse, the practice is undertaken for a euphoric feeling or hallucinations.
The man discovered in the Goldsboro parking lot reportedly had multiple cans of compressed air found with him.
Such a death is a social tragedy. Of course, we offer condolences to the man’s family and empathy for their devastating loss. We will not further identify the deceased in this editorial, in deference to the family.
But we all must keep in mind that one person’s drug abuse of any kind can have devastating effects on a significant number of people. Huffing is a problem, especially for younger Americans. It is the true gateway drug. For instance, huffing inhalants tends to be children’s first drug abuse. Kids start as early as age 10 with 25% of U.S. students intentionally abusing everyday household products to get high by the time they reach the eighth grade. Current numbers show that more than 2.6 million children 12-17 use huffing each year to get high.
Of course, opioid abuse is getting most of the attention, especially heroin, which is cheaper on the streets today than in the 1980s and ’90s.
Heroin impacts society in many ways. For instance, in Wayne County in April, the Goldsboro-Wayne County Inter-Agency Drug Task Force made 22 arrests and had 13 more active warrants following an eight-month investigation. Of those arrested or sought, 10 were for heroin possession and sales and nine were for Schedule II controlled substances, which include opioids that have a medicinal purpose.
Here are some key points to consider regarding how the drug affects people throughout the U.S. from therecoveryvillage.com, the website for a nationwide network of rehabilitation facilities:
• The number of people using heroin for the first time in 2016 (170,000) was nearly double the number of people first trying the drug in 2006 (90,000).
• Heroin is cheaper and purer than it was in the 1980s and 1990s.
• There isn’t a typical heroin user anymore. It’s now more common in the suburbs and among wealthier users than it was before.
• Heroin is one of the most deadly drugs.
• More people seek treatment for addiction to heroin than for any other drug.
• Drug overdose deaths involving heroin rose from 1,960 in 1999 to 15,482 in 2017, statistics the National Institute on Drug Abuse released in January.
• According to the 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 2016 saw 15,469 heroin-related deaths in the U.S., up 19% in one year.
We all know that drug and substance abuse is a problem. It didn’t go away with the 20th century. The only substantial changes are the revamping of old drugs, such as heroin, the climbing abuse of pharmaceuticals — opioids, and the broader array of inhalants and the younger the kids are using them. So, for your sake, for your family’s and for society in general, take a page from the terrorist ID book: If you see something, say something about abuse.