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Published January 25 2011

Fargo huffing arrest is man’s 12th since 2006

A Fargo man convicted nine times of inhaling intoxicating vapors since 2006 was arrested again last weekend – his third arrest for so-called “huffing” in the past two months.

Fargo police Sgt. Mark Lykken said the case illustrates that while huffing of chemicals found in air dusters and other products seems to be less prevalent than it was five years ago, those who abuse inhalants tend to be repeat offenders.

Randy William Mattson, 38, was arrested Saturday in the Kmart parking lot on South University Drive after a caller told authorities a man in the driver’s seat of a car was having medical problems.

Officers found Mattson slumped over in a silver Oldsmobile Alero, Lykken said. Mattson allegedly raised a white can of Maxell Blast Away, a brand of air duster, to his nostril and inhaled the vapors, Lykken said.

Mattson was arrested on suspicion of inhaling intoxicating vapors, which is a Class B misdemeanor under North Dakota law.

Court records show he was convicted of the same charge nine times between August 2006 and March 2010. Two cases remain open stemming from arrests Dec. 14 and Jan. 7.

Earlier this month, a 21-year-old Fargo man was arrested after he allegedly rear-ended another vehicle and was later found huffing from a can of Dust-Off. Travis Dean Crane pleaded guilty Jan. 7 to inhaling intoxicating vapors and was sentenced to 20 days in jail. Crane previously was convicted of the same charge four times in Cass County and twice in Burleigh County, N.D., all since March 2008, according to court records.

Mike Kaspari, a registered nurse and director of First Step Recovery in Fargo, said most huffing cases the rehab center encounters involve 15- to 25-year-olds experimenting with inhalants. He agreed with Lykken that adult users tend to repeat the behavior.

“It seems like once people get going on that path, that it is very difficult to get them off of it even if they go through treatment,” he said.

Kaspari also agreed that huffing cases don’t appear to be as common as they were five or 10 years ago.

“But I’m sure it’s still out there,” he said, adding newer designer drugs such as K2 have garnered more attention in the past year.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, inhalant abuse produces a rapid euphoric effect similar to being drunk. It may result in serious and sometimes irreversible damage to the user’s heart, liver, kidneys, lungs and brain and, in some cases, death.

Kaspari said huffing’s high comes from a combination of the ingested chemical and anoxia, or lack of oxygen to the brain.

“The idea with a huffer is to use enough to get that head rush but not so much that you pass out,” he said. “That can be kind of a narrow path to walk.”

Signs of inhalant abuse

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528