David Manlove, 16, Inhalants

Last Updated: Friday, August 17, 2018

As told by his parents

When our son, David, was 13 and 14, we discovered he had tried drinking alcohol and smoking pot. We reiterated our rules that alcohol and drug use was unacceptable, and imposed what we felt were appropriate consequences. As parents who spent our teen and young adult years in the late 60's and 70's, we believed that we would know the signs of serious drug use, and thought David's actions were just the experimentation that lots of kids go through. But we were wrong.

When David was 16, we finally came to the realization that David's drug and alcohol use had escalated. We sought professional treatment for David at a local drug and alcohol treatment facility. While tentative at first, Dave did well in the program. He attended therapy faithfully, participated fully in discussions, publicly acknowledged that he was struggling with addiction, and began participating in Twelve-Step meetings.

By the time school ended in early June, David was looking forward to the summer. He found a job, earning money to buy a car and trying to win back some of our trust. But his continued desire to get high was very powerful, more powerful than we knew, and more importantly than he knew himself. In fact, months earlier, David had discovered he could get high by inhaling the propellant from computer duster and the chemical would not show up on drug screens routinely administered by the treatment facility. We had a suspicion that he was inhaling computer duster. When confronted about it, he denied it vehemently, declared that he knew how dangerous it was, and vowed that he would never do something so stupid.

On a beautiful, warm, sunny Saturday the second week in June, he got up early, mowed the lawn and asked if he could go out with friends. He ended up at the home of a friend, swimming in their backyard pool. At lunch, the girls went into the house to eat but David and another boy said they wanted to go to a nearby fast food place. Instead, they went to a drug store and bought a can of computer duster. 

The boys returned, got back into the pool and began inhaling the propellant from the computer duster while standing in the pool's shallow end. In order to intensify the high, David began diving underwater while inhaling the propellant. However, after the third or fourth time, he didn't come back up. At first, the kids thought he was just fooling around, but after a minute, they realized something was wrong. His friend pulled David out of the water while the girls ran for help. Paramedics arrived within minutes and began desperate attempts to revive him. They rushed him to a nearby hospital while continuing CPR. However, the toxic chemical in the propellant had frozen David's lungs and interrupted the electrical activity of his heart, putting him into cardiac arrest. After almost an hour of life-saving efforts, after being told by the emergency room doctor that they had done everything they could, we did one of the hardest things a parent will ever do - we asked the team to stop, and they did.

A couple weeks before his death, after we confronted him about our suspicions that he was inhaling computer duster, we asked him, "David, where are you going with all this? What are you doing with your life?" With all the earnestness of his 16 years, he replied, "I want to be a doctor like my grandfather. I want to make a difference." In sharing his story, we believe David is making a difference.


Taylor Hooton

True Stories

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