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Bemidji Police Department program educates students about dangers of huffing

Officer Jon Hunt of the Bemidji Police Department quizzes Bemidji Middle School sixth-graders on the dangers of huffing Thursday afternoon during a Drug Abuse Resistance Education lesson at the school. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Huffing can be deadly - even on the first try.

Officer Jon Hunt of the Bemidji Police Department is sharing this message with sixth-graders in his Drug Abuse Resistance Education classes at Bemidji Middle School and St. Philip's School.

He is devoting an entire lesson in D.A.R.E. this year to the dangerous behavior.

"There's no room for trial and error when it comes to huffing," said Hunt, who is a D.A.R.E. and school resource officer.

Hunt said huffing is the intentional inhaling of fumes from solvents, liquids or gases, or any other household chemicals that include some form of poison.

Inhalants, he said, are a collection of household substances that when breathed can cause a quick high and causes immediate and permanent brain damage.

"It can be deadly the very first time," he added.

Hunt said 22 percent of people who die from huffing die the first time they do it.

Even if it doesn't kill a person the first time, huffing does cause brain damage, he said.

"The brain damage that is caused by huffing is permanent," he said.

Hunt said he believes there is a lack of knowledge about the extreme dangers of huffing. If adults don't give youth a proper education about the dangers of huffing, youth will learn about huffing from other sources, most likely their peers, he said.

"And it most likely won't be the truth," he said. "Too much misinformation is out there."

While D.A.R.E. materials cover huffing in part of one lesson during the 12-week program, Hunt said he is introducing a full lesson on the topic this year because he has received questions from parents on how to know if their child is huffing and how huffing affects people, and hears rumors in the hallways at school from students saying they know someone who is huffing.

D.A.R.E. is a police officer-led series of classroom lessons that teaches children how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug- and violence-free lives, according to the D.A.R.E. Web site.

"I always tell (the students), 'Our job is to make you good decision makers,'" Hunt said.