Hage: Huff and huff and blow your life away

After an 18-year-old Princeton man was pulled over in the early morning hours of Sept. 19, he was charged with DWI.

But it wasn’t alcohol, marijuana or meth that had Zachary Woodman buzzing.

Woodman was part of a growing number of people who get their high from aerosol propellants.

It was at 1:55 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 19 that Princeton Police Sergeant Joe Backlund observed Woodman enter the Coborn’s grocery store parking lot.

Woodman allegedly struck a curb and then drove over it. Woodman then allegedly hit a center island curb as he attempted to park in the parking lot.

But instead of parking between two lines painted in the parking lot, Woodman allegedly stopped in the middle of the egress between parking spots.

When Backlund approached Woodman, he saw that the driver was showing signs of impairment.

And there may have been a good reason for that.

On the driver’s side floor of Woodman’s vehicle were three empty cans of Reddi-Whip whipped cream. Another empty can sat on the passenger side seat next to a fifth, unopened can of Reddi-Whip.

What came next might surprise you: Woodman allegedly admitted “huffing” the containers.

Woodman submitted to a series of field sobriety tests. He failed them. He was then arrested and taken to Fairview Northland Medical Center where his blood was tested for levels of intoxication. Woodman’s morning ended with being booked into the Sherburne County Jail for consideration of charges for 4th degree DWI, a misdemeanor.

“Huffing” isn’t something that Princeton Police officers see a lot of, but it’s not something that’s unusual, either, according to Princeton Police Chief Brian Payne.

A lot of different things are used in huffing, Payne said.

“It can be anything with an aerosol propellant used to expel a product,” Payne said.

Whipping cream, paint, canned cheese spread, and canned air, used to remove dust from computers, are just some of the items used in huffing.

Huffing aerosol propellants can cause a euphoric feeling, but they can also do much more.

When someone inhales the aerosol propellant it causes brain damage. Permanent brain damage.

And even though all aerosol cans carry warning labels highlighting the dangers of huffing, one must assume that when one is bouncing off curbs in a grocery store parking lot with four empty cans of aerosol-propelled whipping cream, there isn’t a lot of label reading going on.

The truth is, huffing aerosol propellants is extremely hazardous to one’s health. The propellants are mood-altering chemicals that change one’s behavior, whether they are at home on a couch or behind the wheel of a vehicle on Rum River Drive.

“It’s a growing area of drug abuse,” Payne said.

“It’s extremely hazardous and highly addictive.  Its affects stay with you until you die,” he said.

And, unfortunately, death often isn’t too far away.

Jeff Hage is the editor of the Princeton Union-Eagle. Reach him by e-mail at [email protected]