Sep 12, 2012 7:59 PM by Tom McNamara
TUCSON - When you think of substance abuse, illegal drugs come to mind, but some young people are now relying on an old, cheap and dangerous technique to get high.
It's called "huffing," and a Tucson mental health expert says one in five people have done it. Most are under 18, and many learned the technique on-line.
Sahuarita Police were recently called to a vacant home, where, they say, several teens were emptying Freon from an air conditioner, into a bag, and then huffing it.
Sergeant Sam Almodova told us, "When I heard about this case, I thought, 'well this is unusual, this is something that's out of the ordinary.'"
Neighbor Chris Lamb saw the commotion the night the teens were caught.
"That night kind of surprised us; that they were hitting the A/C and huffing off of that," Lamb said. "It is different, I think it's cheaper, it's easier access to these individual kids, so one tries and they're all going to try it."
But that high can be deadly, even the first time a kid "huffs."
It can damage their brain, and mental health experts say up to 200 people die each year from damage to their heart, liver or kidneys.
Addiction counselor John Leggio said too little is known about the damage huffing can cause.
He told News Four, "I think there's such a mixture of things, it's really hard to predict first of all, what the effects are going to be on the person in terms of the experience. But also the damage, too."
Leggio said the quick 'high' teen get from 'huffing' may make them disoriented, and some even experience psychedelic effects.
And, said Leggio, many kids who continue huffing become inattentive and learning disabled, making the price of a quick high, way too high.
He said if parents suspect their kids are huffing, look for the warning signs: inhalant or paint odors on their breath and clothes, signs of these substances on their skin, clothes, or in their nostrils, and headaches, which are very common with "huffers."