One day while I was covering court in a flyover town near the Massachusetts border, I noticed a frequent visitor who prosecutors knew by his first name. His name was Richard, and he seemed like your token backwoods, working class male from these parts: white, worn-out, and completely nonchalant about being a regular at court. He went before the judge for what seemed to be a routine DUI case, but I was curious about his local celebrity, and a little bored, so I pulled his file later on in the clerk’s office. I started reading through his cases–he had a lot. Several DUIs, some he caught in the span of just days. Turns out he developed a vicious addiction to inhaling Dust-Off canisters. I wanted to write a story, but I didn’t want it to be a petty story that hung this poor guy out to dry, so I made it more about how there really are no services available to treat an addiction to inhalants. I still can’t believe this guy talked to me. Richard didn’t exhibit the signs of typical drug-seeking behavior–it’s not what led him to developing this addiction. It’s not like he’d been actively seeking out these mass-produced little cans to catch a high off. He’d been a recovering alcoholic for a few years now and was trying to stay straight when he said one day he was cleaning with the Dust-Off in his home and caught a whiff. The canister contains a compressed gas that gives you an amazing touch of euphoria. And he was hooked.
He started huffing regularly. Best of all, it was cheap. But soon his life spiraled out of control. He crashed his car into dealerships after passing out at the wheel. Cops would find the canisters in his car. Soon, his family ostracized him. His son didn’t want him to attend his high school graduation ceremony. A painful black comedy ensued. For a year, Richard was busy coming to this small, miserable courthouse almost 20 times in the span of a year. Treatment didn’t work, as there really weren’t any effective services to properly treat such an addiction. The last time I spoke with Richard was right before he was going before a judge. He was about to smoke his last cigarette because he was sure that he would be locked up, but he got off with a couple years of probation. Hope he’s alright.