Inhalant abuse on rise in KMC

Capt. Kimberly Quedensley
435th Air Base Wing Legal Office

Inhalant abuse, commonly called huffing, is on the rise in the KMC. In the past month there have been five cases.

It is not unusual to see locals huffing in area clubs and bars. However, few people know it is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for servicemembers to huff. And even less know it is physically dangerous, said Maj. Christopher McMahon, 435th Air Base Wing Legal Office chief of military justice.

Huffing is the purposeful inhalation of chemical vapors to achieve an altered mental or physical state. People can inhale vapors emitted from a wide range of substances. In fact, chemical vapors used as inhalants can be found in more than 1,000 common household products. There are several general categories for substances that may be used as inhalants to include volatile solvents (glue and nail polish), aerosols (paint and cleaning products), gases (butane lighters) and nitrates.

“While these products are legal by themselves, it is illegal to inhale them,” said Major McMahon

If a military member is caught huffing any of these substances, possible consequences range from a letter of reprimand, Article 15 to even court-martial. In addition, inhalant use can be considered drug abuse for discharge purposes. Simply stated, even one huffing incident could lead to a general discharge. Huffing is not only illegal in the military, 46 out of 50 states have also enacted laws which make inhalant abuse illegal.

“After reviewing the cases, it is clear that Airmen do not realize the seriousness of huffing,” said Major McMahon. “They need to ask themselves, ‘Is my life or career worth a 15-second high?’”

In addition to ending a military member’s career, huffing could lead to serious, irreversible health consequences. Common side effects from huffing can include drowsiness, lightheadedness, agitation and impaired judgment. Long-term inhalant abusers may suffer from muscle weakness, disorientation, irritability and depression. Chronic inhalant abuse may result in permanent damage to the user’s heart, liver, kidneys, lungs and brain. Death resulting from an irregular heart rhythm or heart failure can occur after a single use or after prolonged use. A user who is suffering from impaired judgment may also experience fatal injuries from car accidents or sudden falls.

Locally, the most common substance to inhale is called “Rush.” Rush is a type of nitrate that can include either amyl nitrate or butyl nitrate. Rush is also referred to as a “popper” due to the small, sealed capsules that are popped or snapped in order to release the vapors. All of these substances are easily obtainable and are, by themselves, not illegal to purchase and use as intended. However, the improper use of these products is illegal.