Two incidents this summer highlight the dangers behind inhaling toxic substances and the particular popularity of one common product—CleanSafe Dust Remover.
"The problem you have is inhalants are not an illegal substance, they're just available," says Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Glen Welch of Missoula's Youth Court. "These spray things, they're deadly. It amazes me that some kids are using them day-in and day-out, because they can kill you in a first-time shot."
Since May, two separate accidents occurred as a result of individuals huffing CleanSafe Dust Remover. Shane Paddock, 19, was found guilty last week of crashing into a house after huffing the product. Mark McGuire, 36, admitted to huffing CleanSafe before crashing into a dumpster in June. According to court affidavits, both men "blacked out" before crashing and have no recollection of the accidents.
An inhalant like CleanSafe hits a user quickly, according to Mindy Gochis, a licensed addiction counselor and coordinator of Missoula's Underage Substance Abuse Prevention Team.
"The last case in Missoula, where the guy was huffing in the car, passed out and drove through the house—you have to consider all those organs are affected that quickly for him to then pass out," she says. "That's the danger of huffing."
Available at most drug stores for approximately $4 a can, CleanSafe provides a cheap and easily accessible way for users to get high. That makes law enforcement's job that much more difficult.
"With kids, alcohol and marijuana are drugs of choice, but when you can't get those, and other things are readily available, they use what they can get most of the time," says Welch.
Although inhalant abuse is low in Missoula, Gochis says the problem still exists.
"There are relatively low numbers in terms of inhalant in comparison to alcohol and other drugs," she says. "But it's there, it's on the surface and I think it's a problem if even one kid is using."