Nichelle Nicole Preston should be preparing for cheerleading practice at Glen Burnie High School. Instead, she is dead. She died a week shy of her 17th birthday, from inhaling butane fumes from a can. There are many senseless ways to die, but it is hard to imagine a greater waste than this.
So far, the war on drugs has isolated the "sexy" drugs -- cocaine, heroin, marijuana -- as the enemy while ignoring cruder but equally dangerous substances like butane. That has been a mistake.
Though deaths from inhalant abuse are rare, Ms. Preston's tragedy reflects what experts say is a growing trend toward abuse of cheap, easily obtained household items -- metallic spray paints, solvents, cleaning fluids, gasoline, even the "white-out" used for typewriter corrections. Historically, the choice of younger teens in poor neighborhoods, inhalants are increasingly popular with older adolescents and young adults in the middle and upper-middle classes. Recent surveys of school-age children show that cocaine and marijuana use are down, but abuse of alcohol and inhalants is rising.