Serial huffer busted again; health officials says treatment is best option

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – A serial huffer has yet another run-in with the law in south St. Louis County but won’t face serious jail time despite several arrests.

Just this year, a 47-year-old south St. Louis County man has come in contact with authorities two dozen times for huffing-related issues.

"We definitely know historically people have misused any kind of pressurized systems or aerosol and they use that to get high and anything can become addictive over time," said Nicole Browning, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

The latest incident was just after midnight on Tuesday at the Walmart on Telegraph Road.

St. Louis County police arrested him and plan to seek charges for stealing and inhaling solvent fumes. St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said aerosol is not a solvent, but they are trying to work with police and the county counselor’s office on a solution.

The county counselor echoed that statement.

Browning said with any addiction, it's about getting the right kind of help.

"It's hard when you talk about the legal system and treatment, which are often two different entities,” she said. “When someone is repeatedly having occurrences with the law, we know there's an underlying issue, whether that's mental health, substance abuse disorder, and making those connections as easily as possible.”

In February, a customer caught the man allegedly huffing inside the Richmond Heights Menards.

Police said he came back on their radar April 12 when he was arrested for disturbing the peace near the Family Dollar in Affton.

The next day he was arrested for the same thing near the Sunset Lanes Bowling Alley in Marlborough and again the very next day across the street for trespassing near the Chippewa Motel. That's when a county police crisis intervention team took him to the hospital.

"You know, law enforcement is often that first line of defense and for anyone who encounters someone with this disease and has a substance abuse disorder, to refer them to a treatment agency, to refer them to NCADA,” Browning said. “We can do assessments and referrals here, we can take phone calls from people that are concerned here and get them connected with the right kind of treatment or resources that they need.”