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Canned Air Abuse

By Julie Anne Fidler ; Updated July 27, 2017

One of the newest, most popular drugs on the market doesn’t have to be purchased in a dark alley on a rainy night from a seedy drug dealer. It doesn’t cost addicts their life fortunes and you won’t get arrested for having it in your possession. Inhaling canned air is cheap, legal and easy. Frighteningly, it is also sometimes deadly.

"Canned Air" or "Duster"

Canned air, also known as duster, is a dry product used to clean electronics, vacuums, watches, clocks, fans, sports equipment, musical instruments, guns, and desktops. It is compressed gas which fires a powerful blast of air at whatever you point it at. It is usually flammable (though there are some types which now claim to be nonflammable), comes in several different size cans, and is touted as being “ozone safe.”

How Canned Air is Misused

Canned air is made up of two components, gas and liquid. When canned air is used in the upright position it is harmless, as only the gas layer above the liquid is released. This is the way the product was designed to be used. When the can is tilted, however, the two components combine and liquefied gas is released into the air, or – in the case of someone abusing the product – into the individual’s mouth.

Inhalant Abuse Statistics

The overwhelming majority of canned air abusers are teens and young adults, who have been introduced to inhalants by friends. Canned air is attractive because it is cheap and easily accessible. A 2008 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration showed that two million juveniles age 12 and older had abused inhalants. Another 2008 study, this time by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, showed that 8.9 percent of eighth-graders, 5.9 percent of 10th-graders, and 3.8 percent of high school seniors had abused inhalants at least once during the year prior to the survey.

Dangers of Canned Air Abuse

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, huffing canned air (or any inhalant, for that matter) produces a rapid high not unlike alcohol intoxication. If enough of the gas is inhaled, it can cause a loss of sensation or unconsciousness. It can also cause hearing loss, limb spasms, central nervous system and brain damage or damage to bone marrow. Inhaling large quantities of the gas can lead to death due to heart failure or suffocation, because inhalants displace oxygen in the lungs.

Signs of a Canned Air Addiction

Some of the signs that someone has an addiction to canned air include glassy, glazed, or watery eyes; behavioral or mood changes; slurred speech; problems in school; and excitability or irritability. You may also notice a chemical smell on the person’s breath or clothes, spots or sores around his mouth and nose, used duster cans lying around, or you may find that you are suddenly missing the canned air you used for your computer or home office.

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