Question about compressed air and illicit drugs

I am a computer techie. Well, among many other things. Anyway, recently a client came for a laptop cleaning. I’ve got a plug-in electric blower thingie, but the other day, as I was browsing Walmart I decided to look into the cost of those commercial cans of compressed air. After inquiring, I was directed to the Electronics Department. Rather than look myself, I approached a counter person at a register and asked her in which aisle the cans of compressed air were stored. She looked at me, bent forward a little, opened a cabinet door under the cash register and took one out… I was like: They are not to be found on the shelves with other computer stuff? She replied: No, always down here. I was like: Why? She said it was something to do with drugs… wtf

Can someone clue me in?

Huffing.

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They’re not full of compressed air. They’re full of a liquid which vaporizes easily. While the vapor is generally inert and non-toxic, you could still inhale it directly and face problems from the lack of oxygen.

If they leave it on the shelf. kids come and play with it.

Then you’ve got injured kids and empty cans.

Can you get injured by compressed air? Yes, and even people who are smart enough to not injure themselves with fly spray are still dumb enough to injure themselves with compressed air. It’s just air right? (well, maybe not, but even it is, people still inflate themselves with or injure their eyes with compressed air).

But even if injury is not a problem, you’ve still got empty cans.

Compressed air can be used to dry drugs when doing chemical reactions, but I don’t think I’d use a can for that: even compressed, you don’t get much air in a can that size.

It’s kept under the cupboard to keep it from being shoplifted by addicts. As wolf333 said, huffers.

Which is why they don’t use air.

I go through loads of this stuff–it’s perfect for using in a home machine shop instead of a big air compressor.

Back in the day it used to be some kind of Freon-like substance. The can I am looking at now is covered with all kinds of warnings about not huffing it and not burning it, but it doesn’t say anywhere what chemical it actually is. That’s odd–I would expect there to be chemicals listed so one could look up an MSDS if needed.

“Contains a bitterant to help discourage inhalant abuse”

My old can of computer cleaner got cold whenever I used it. The Freon-like chemical is very popular with huffers; kids (of all ages) have died from huffing it, including a teenage boy from my area who froze his lungs and immediately asphyxiated while doing it as a prank at school.

Whether it’s chemical or just plain old compressed air, people are going to find a way to misuse it, whether to get high or just as horseplay. Good grief, my doctor’s office has a sign in it that says “DO NOT BLOW UP GLOVES.” :smack:

Do you have cites for any of this? What is this freon-like chemical? Do you have cites for it being a popular choice for huffers? Or of kids dying from it? I won’t even ask you for info about the teenage boy who froze his lungs with it, because then you’d inadvertently reveal more private personal information about yourself than you’d likely care to.

But surely the other stuff, that can be supported with cites, right? Because without such a presumption, your post reads like a bunch of breathless gossip.

This cite is pretty comprehensive. IMO.

I have two cans of different brands that both claim to contain 1,1-difluoroethane. The wiki page has several cites to its use and dangers as a huffing agent.

It is a fluoroethane, often R-134a. Freon is a trade name for 3M’s line of refrigerants. Refrigerant gases are readily compressed into liquid form, a can of which is safer and holds more than a can of high pressure air.

check the link in post #2

Good thing i like crow!! :slight_smile: thanks! (And sorry NWH)

Why not use propane? I think that’s the typical propellant when food is involved (spray cooking oil, etc.). Since difluoroethane is highly flammable when used in canned air anyway, I don’t see that being a concern, and propane is apparently not as addictive or dangerous for huffing. Might it freeze up the can too quickly? Propane as a refrigerant has similar properties to R-22, which is generally considered better/more efficient than the R-134a variants. Maybe it’s more chemically reactive and could cause problems with the plastics used in electronic equipment?

I had a nephew who died in his early 20s as a result of huffing canned air. Brilliant college student one semester from graduation in computer science at a major tech university with industry recruiters chasing him like crazy. He went into a state of deep depression after his three lifelong BFFs were killed in a fiery crash on their way home after a road trip to visit him and he started huffing canned air.

He spent time in a hospital burn unit after sticking his face into a bag of the vapor while having a lit cigarette in his mouth. He lost his drivers license after having several car crashes; he said he didn’t think it was fair that they took his license because they couldn’t prove he was under the influence of anything. He was found floating face down in about a foot water in a local swampy area behind an office supply store where he had purchased the two cans of air that were found empty floating next to him.

BTW, I buy a can of air for blowing out my computer now and then but one time several years ago when I had a very long ponytail the clerk at that same office supply store had told me they didn’t carry those cans; he obviously just thought because of my hair length that I was going to use it as a drug since I have bought the stuff at that store both before and after my nephew’s death.

I don’t doubt that in some places you have to ask for it, but I buy six-packs of it off the shelf at Costco.

Even when it’s on the shelf, canned air is usually wrapped in plastic and has a tab that has to be broken off before it can be used. it would be easier to “play” with the hundreds of cleaning sprays out on a shelf.

There is an Intervention episode showing a girl named Allison Fogarty who bought and huffed computer duster by the case; you can find the episode and excerpts from it on line.

Thankfully she seems to have stopped doing it and is doing much better now.

I am positive I had one of those cans which contained butane, but I don’t remember the brand. That would explain the horrible mishap related above with the lit cigarette.

I would have thought that for purposes of abuse it would be easier and cheaper to use toluene (as in buy or steal a bottle full of pure toluene), or chloroform, or ether, or some other liquid. It seems baroque to buy caseloads of metal canisters.