Inhalant abuse on the rise in Rapid City - KOTA Territory News

Inhalant abuse on the rise in Rapid City

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It's a growing problem, hidden in the shadows beneath your sink, under bridges and often even in plain sight. 

Rapid City police have noticed a disturbing increase in the abuse of inhalants.

"Before the accident he was our high schools best football player. Smart- always was," said Agnes Steele.  

 Steele and fiance Shaun Herrod had a life to envy. Herrod, a civil engineering student, was on the brink of graduation.

"In the meantime we had two kids," said Steele.

But a devastating car crash would cut all that short in 2008. Herrod sustained a severe brain injury and had to relearn how to walk, talk and speak. 

"They told me that the guy who hit Shaun was dusting and driving," said Steele.

'Dusting', also known as sniffing, huffing or inhaling is not something new to street crimes officers,  but they are seeing more of it. Police say arrests for 'ingestion' have increased 33 percent since 2010. 

"I can think of 4 or 5 cases in the last 3 months that I've seen personally. [Users] act a lot like they've been drinking. Slurred speech, disoriented look about them. It's cheap, easy to get," said Officer Mike Shyne with the Rapid City Police department. 

Medical experts say there are more than 30 products in the average household that can be abused as inhalants, but not without long term medical consequences. 

Experts say frequent and long term use can lead to brain damage, heart damage, liver injury, kidney injury. 

Herrod and his family would eventually get to know and befriend the young man responsible for their car crash 

"He pays restitution, pays medical bills, we talk and communicate when I need him," said Steele.

Herrod takes slow steps toward recovery daily, but his family has come to accept he will never be the same as he was before the accident. 

"Shaun has brain damage, but he didn't huff. But it was from huffing. He does good. Still continuing his recovery. Gets better every day," said Steele.

"I want to....be a part of society again," said Herrod.

Drug experts say young teens are most susceptible to abusing inhalants. National statistics show by the 8th grade, one in five students will have used inhalants at least once.

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Rapid City, SD 57701

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Fax: 605.342.7305

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