Teens call it "dusting," but it has nothing to do with cleaning their rooms. Slang for their newest way of getting high — sucking in the compressed gas of computer keyboard cleaner — it can be deadly even for a first-time user.
NEW YORK — Teens call it “dusting,” but it has nothing to do with cleaning their rooms. Slang for their newest way of getting high — sucking in the compressed gas of computer keyboard cleaner — it can be deadly even for a first-time user.
“Take a full can of Dust-Off and inhale as much as you can — it has to be full,” said one anonymous high-school senior, explaining how it works. “You get really lightheaded for about 10 seconds. It’s a stupid high.”
Dusting is the latest take on inhalant abuse, more commonly known as “huffing” or “sniffing,” a decades-old practice used by teens to get high on ordinary household products.
Computer keyboard cleaner joins nail polish, glue, hair spray and a laundry list of other grocery-store goods as a cheap (less than $5 per can) and easy-to-find alternative to illegal substances.
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“It’s the product of choice lately,” said Colleen Creighton, executive director of the Washington-based Alliance for Consumer Education (ACE), a nonprofit that is making inhalantabuse prevention one of its core programs.
More than 2.1 million kids 12 to 17 years of age have used an inhalant to get high, according to ACE statistics, and one out of five school-age children in America has intentionally abused one to get high by the time they reach the eighth grade.
Because inhalants are easily accessible, they tend to be a drug of first use, and are believed to be as popular as marijuana among young people. Inhalant abuse usually begins at age 10 or 11, though children as young as 6 begin experimenting with inhalants.
The dusting moniker was born from Dust-Off, one of the more popular cleaning brands. Recognizing the danger posed by its product when used improperly, the manufacturer has embarked on an inhalant-abuse-prevention campaign of its own and has increased the size of the warning labels printed on each can. Other manufacturers have followed suit.
Teens suck the gas from the thin straw attached to the can’s nozzle. The high from the gas paralyzes the user for a few minutes, creating a feeling of euphoria. But those few minutes can result in damage to the brain, kidneys and liver.
“It can kill you the first time you use it,” said ACE’s Creighton.
Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome — a danger from any inhalant — can cause the heart to beat rapidly and erratically, resulting in cardiac arrest.
There are no regulations regarding the sale of computer-keyboard cleaner, Creighton said, though some stores have chosen to keep it behind the counter and will not sell it to anyone under 18.
Several teens who spoke anonymously for this article said they first learned about dusting from “Intervention,” an A&E TV reality show on which people confront their addictions with the help of family and friends.
It served to scare some kids but also prompted others to give it a try.