Teenagers or adults who want to experiment with drugs often may not have access to street drugs such as marijuana, heroin, or methamphetamine. Unfortunately, lack of access to street drugs doesn’t deter people from looking for ways to get high, and many turn to common household products such as paint thinner, glue, or spray paint to get intoxicated by inhaling the chemical fumes these products emit.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a 2010 survey revealed that about 800,000 people ages 12 and older had used inhalants for the first time in the year before the survey was conducted. More than two-thirds of those people were teens under age 18. An annual survey conducted by the Institute of middle and high school students shows the greatest numbers of inhalant use among 8th graders.
Inhalant abuse often starts when someone is a teenager, but it doesn’t necessarily stop when the person becomes an adult. Inhalant abuse is seen in people of various age groups, and in both urban and rural settings.
Because inhalants are common products, many people may not realize that abusing inhalants is a crime in Ohio. Ohio Rev. Code 2925.31 makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to obtain, possess, or use harmful intoxicants. The offense is a fifth-degree felony if the person charged has a previous conviction for a drug abuse offense.
What are Harmful Intoxicants?
Ohio Rev. Code 2925.01 defines harmful intoxicants as any substance that has gas, fumes, or vapors that can be used to get intoxicated or high when inhaled.
The statute specifically includes:
- Solvents (such as paint thinners, dry-cleaning fluid, or degreasers)
- Plastic cement or model cement
- Aerosols (such as spray paint, hair spray, or fabric protector spray)
- Fluorocarbon refrigerants
- Anesthetic gasses such as nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”)
However, the term “harmful intoxicants” is not limited to those categories. If inhaling a substance induces “excitement, giddiness, irrational behavior, depression, stupefaction, paralysis, unconsciousness, asphyxiation, or other harmful physiological effects” it may be considered a harmful intoxicant for purposes of Ohio’s criminal drug laws.
Effects of Inhalant Abuse
People who abuse inhalants — a practice often referred to as huffing — breathe in the vapors to get the desired intoxicating or euphoric effect. They may sniff fumes from containers, spray aerosols into their mouths or noses, spray the substance into a plastic or paper bag and then inhale the fumes from the bag, inhaling fumes from a rag soaked in the substance, or inhale the fumes from balloons filled with vapors.
Inhaling chemicals through the lungs allows them to quickly be absorbed into the bloodstream. Effects are similar to consuming alcohol, but unlike alcohol are almost instantaneous because the way the chemicals get absorbed into the body.
Immediate effects of huffing inhalants may include:
- Slurred speech
- Lack of coordination
- Loss of sensation
- Impaired judgment
Inhalant abuse can be fatal. Repeated inhalations can cause asphyxiation, suffocation, seizures, coma, or choking. The impairments to judgment, thinking, and motor skills can lead to accidents such as motor vehicle fatalities.
Penalties for Abuse of Harmful Intoxicants
When abuse of harmful intoxicants is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, the penalty upon conviction may include up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
If you have a prior conviction for any drug abuse offense, abuse of harmful intoxicants may be charged as a fifth-degree felony. A conviction may result in six (6) to 12 months in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
Additionally, Ohio Rev. Code 2925.31 requires a court to suspend your driver’s license for 6 months to 5 years when you’re convicted of abusing harmful intoxicants.
Other Consequences of Conviction
Jail time, fines, and the loss of your driver’s license aren’t the only ways a conviction for abusing harmful intoxicants can affect your life. A conviction means having a permanent criminal record as a drug offender. That can affect your ability to get a job, rent an apartment, hold a professional license, or get a college degree. A drug conviction also may affect your immigration status if you’re in the United States on an immigration visa or a green card.
A charge of abusing harmful intoxicants in Ohio is a serious criminal matter, and as seen above a conviction can have lasting negative effects on your life. However, an experienced Columbus criminal lawyer may be able to help you fight the charge and get the penalties reduced, or get your charge dismissed altogether if the circumstances are right.
To convict you, a prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you obtained, possessed, or used a substance that is defined in Ohio as a harmful intoxicant. A skilled drug defense lawyer may be able to challenge whether you did in fact obtain, possess, or use the substance. Your lawyer also may be able to challenge whether the substance was in fact a harmful intoxicant.
Additionally, under Ohio Rev. Code 2925.31, if you’re a professional working in the medical, dental, or veterinary field and had a legitimate purpose to obtain, possess, or use harmful intoxicants, you may have a defense to the charge.
Some other common defense tactics in drug cases include:
- Challenging whether the police had reasonable suspicion to arrest you
- Challenging whether the police had probable cause for a search
- Working to get evidence kept out of court if police didn’t have a search warrant or used illegal wiretapping or surveillance to get evidence against you
Charged with a Columbus drug crime? Contact a Columbus harmful intoxicant lawyer today.
If you’ve been charged with abuse of harmful intoxicants, it’s important to know what you’re facing. If you have any questions left unanswered by this page, or you’re ready to discuss your situation with an experienced Columbus criminal lawyer, please contact us at (614) 500-3836 or via email at [email protected].
For over a decade, the Columbus criminal defense attorneys at LHA have successfully represented clients on criminal offenses ranging from minor misdemeanors to first-degree felonies. That extensive previous experience will enable us to better help you.