Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Did Alabama Attorney Chace Swatek Fit the Standard Profile of a "Huffer"?

Common products used for huffing

Chace Swatek was a 35-year-old lawyer, from a wealthy Alabama family with strong ties to the Republican Party, and he had a penchant for driving Mercedes vehicles.

That does not fit the profile of someone who would die from inhalant abuse, known as "huffing" in street lingo. But our research indicates that the profile for huffers has begun to change over the past four or five years, particularly since 2010. And that might explain why, according to a source, investigators at the scene saw evidence that Swatek died in February from the effects of huffing.

The majority of journal articles and news reports we've seen about huffing say those who practice inhalant abuse tend to fall into two groups--adolescents (ages 12 to 17), from mostly white, middle-class families; and adults living in poverty.

An article in the July 2011 edition of Addiction Science and Clinical Practice (ASCP) provides insights on those who become addicted to inhaling the vapors from volatile solvents that are found in many common household products:

Inhalant, use disproportionately afflicts subpopulations including the poor, mentally ill, and juvenile- and criminal-justice involved. . . . 

Low monetary cost and ease of access probably contribute to the concentration of inhalant use among younger children and adolescents; low-income and unemployed adults; people living in isolated rural or reservation settings; and people housed in institutions such as psychiatric hospitals, prisons, and residential treatment centers. Inhalants can also be purchased and used without arousing the suspicion of parents, sales-people, school or law enforcement professionals, social service workers, or health care providers. Few people, for example, think of butane cigarette lighters, computer air dusters, nail polish, nail polish remover, or paint thinner as items that can be abused for their psychoactive effects; if challenged, young people can often offer plausible benign explanations for having these items.

What are the dangers of huffing? The ASCP article provides one of the best summaries I've seen:

Inhalant intoxication produces a syndrome similar to alcohol intoxication, consisting of dizziness, incoordination, slurred speech, euphoria, lethargy, slowed reflexes, slowed thinking and movement, tremor, blurred vision, stupor or coma, generalized muscle weakness, and involuntary eye movement. Inhalant use can result in chemical and thermal burns, withdrawal symptoms, persistent mental illness, and catastrophic medical emergencies such as ventricular arrhythmias leading to “sudden sniffing death.” Inhalant intoxication also increases the risk for fatal injuries from motor vehicle or other accidents.

Adult inhalant abuse often presents in individuals who have a variety of other disorders:

Studies of adults in substance abuse treatment and in the general population indicate that inhalant users have higher rates of major depression, suicidal ideation and attempts, anxiety disorders, and other substance use disorders than nonusers of inhalants. [Two studies] documented dramatically elevated rates of mood and anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and substance use disorders in a nationally representative sample of U.S. inhalant users. Inhalant use and inhalant use disorders also appear to raise the odds for stressful life events such as having troubles at school or with a boss or co-worker, being fired, or being arrested or sent to jail.

The ASCP article makes it clear that science and mental-health professionals are a long way from coming to grips with inhalant abuse:

Although inhalant abuse is common and associated with harmful outcomes that may rival or exceed those of other psychoactive drugs, inhalants remain the least-studied class of psychoactive agents. There are no clearly effective treatment interventions reported in the clinical research literature.

Chace Swatek's body was found behind a stack of metal pipes, across from a Shell station near the intersection of Shelby County 35 and 52 in Pelham. Authorities say Swatek was on the return portion of a two-mile, round-trip walk to a CVS Pharmacy when he apparently collapsed behind the pipes. A CVS bag containing a receipt and several items was found near the body. Officials have declined to identify the items in the bag because the case remains under investigation.

Where does Swatek's death fit into the huffing scenario? That's hard to say with certainty. Law-enforcement officials have told us that they do not expect to receive a toxicology report on the Swatek case for perhaps a year or more.

Based on my experience with officials here in Shelby County, I would say that a cause of death in the Chace Swatek case never will be willingly released. And even if legal action is taken that might force the release of such information, any document is likely to be incomplete or even altered. Sources have told us that Swatek frequently practiced in Pelham Municipal Court, which is headed by Judge John McBrayer, a Swatek family friend. Would McBrayer be capable of ordering a coverup on the actual cause of death in the Chace Swatek case? The answer appears to be yes.

In my view, the most reliable information we have is a report from a source that evidence at the scene points to huffing as the cause of death.

How can that be if Chace Swatek did not fit the profile of a huffer? Well, our research indicates the huffing profile has evolved. A relatively new product can produce an intense high that appears to have drawn more adults from the middle class and above.

We will take a look, in an upcoming post, at what appears to be the latest trend in huffing.


Anonymous said...


I think I know what relatively new product you are referring to that now has become popular with huffers. I won't spoil it for others, but I'm looking forward to seeing if my guess is right.

BTW, when the Pelham PD says the family doesn't know cause of death--and yet a tox report is going to take a year on a deceased from a prominent GOP family--that makes zero sense. Something is up.

Robby Scott Hill said...

As someone who grew up poor, but was nonetheless welcomed into very elite circles after enrolling in law school, I was able to observe that the very wealthy have quite a few things in common with the very poor.

1) Neither group pays income taxes and both depend on the taxes paid by the Middle Class to finance their lifestyles.
2) Both are used to working very long hours - the poor labor with their backs, while the rich tend to labor with their minds.
3) Both are obsessed with the accumulation of wealth and spending their money wisely. The poor because they don't have any money yet & the rich because they can't ever seem to get enough of it.
4) Both groups envy how Middle Class Workers have a somewhat dependable, regular stream of income with the ability to draw unemployment benefits in between jobs and relocate for new work.
5) Neither group socializes with the Middle Class.

Elites distance themselves from Middle Classers by choice because the Middle Class is the "hired help," while the poor are shunned by Middle Classers who are able to feel like they are better than somebody. They used to get off on treating Blacks, Jews & Catholics like trash, but the post Civil Rights situation says that Poor Whites are now the target of choice because they generally can't sue you unless you break their arms of legs.

A poor person who has social skills and the potential to earn money is much more likely to jump straight into the Upper Class than he is to work his way into the Middle Class. Examples are - 1) the poor lawyer at a small or mid size firm whose wealthy partners all die in an airplane crash and the business is left to him. 2) the wealthy doctor who marries a nurse who managed to get her education through grants and student loans, etc.

This all carries over into the world of vice and drugs. Lawyers, especially criminal lawyers, aren't at the Middle Class parties where expensive wines, "fine China" Cocaine, LSD and designer drugs are floating around.

Lawyers are introduced to a world of 40 Ounce Malt Liquor bottles, crack cocaine & Marijuana joints that usually contain stems and seeds, but which are occasionally seasoned with "lightning bolts" to keep you coming back for more. I mean why waste your money buying Weed & Cocaine separately when you can get it all rolled into one joint? Really!

Every lawyer worth his salt knows that possession of less than 2.2 pounds of Weed is never subject to trafficking charges & the first conviction for possession for personal use is just a Class A Misdemeanor, which is just like a speeding ticket with the possibility of heavier fines, depending on the locality where you are charged. If you're in with the local legal community, you always manage to find some way to plea bargain your first possession charge down to possession of drug paraphernalia or something like that so you're never facing felony charges for your Weed habit. Before long, you're sleeping with some of your clients who supply you with your drugs. You begin to "discount" your services and get rid of productive employees to pay for your drugs and the vicious cycle begins to destroy you and your law practice. I've personally watched it happen to several lawyers.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Since I graduated from high school 20 years ago last month, I've watched drug addicts and the lawyers among their class come and go. I find it difficult to keep a job or get a pay raise where drug addicts are employed while "friends," family members and the criminal justice system pours millions of dollars into "saving drug addicts." As I sit here 11 years after graduation from law school with no job, people just smile at me and say it could be worse, you could be working to pay for your addiction to drugs or alcohol and I'm supposed to be satisfied with that bullshit? The solution is that we have to start drug testing lawyers and judges and holding them to the same standards as the 18-30 year old Black guys who are sent to prison in the "Ni%%ers by the pound" game.

legalschnauzer said...

Very insightful comments, Rob. The notion that the rich and the poor share quite a bit in common, and neither understands the middle class, is worth some heavy pondering.

Your idea of drug testing lawyers is right on target. After all, they are officers of the court. Don't we have a right to expect that they aren't high while conducting business in our taxpayer-funded courts.

Wonder if Judge Mark Fuller could pass a drug test.

I've been told that one of the numerous lawyers who have screwed my wife and me has had a serious drug problem and even was treated through the state bar program ("Lawyers helping lawyers," or whatever it's called).

I've uncovered public documents that show outrageous behavior by this guy, perhaps while he was representing us, that sounds like someone who was seriously high on something.

Much more on this esteemed barrister coming soon. The fact that this guy has a bar card, and you aren't allowed to sit for the exam is an outrage.

Anonymous said...

One could take laptop computer and sit outside of certain big law firm and use their wifi to put a Facebook page about such a lawyer. Before doing so put every thing (pics, docs, etc you have on the guy in google.doc so you can access it on line and cut and paste to Facebook

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 10:07--

Is there a specific big law firm that you would suggest?

Anonymous said...

I've always found it curious that, according to the official story, Chace Swatek just happened to collapse behind a stack of pipes. That seems awfully unlikely.

The more I read on this case here at LS, the more it sounds like Mr. Swatek snuck behind the pipes to be out of view so he could snort or sniff something. Sounds like the guy was so addicted that he couldn't wait to get home before he had to have a hit.

David said...

Alternatively, he could have encountered some one on his walk and following some conversation that caused him to move behind the stack of pipes and that someone caused his demise. The police issued a statement before they could have thoroughly investigated the matter and well before the autopsy was completed. Then there was the funky autopsy report that did not seem to find anything. Just like the guy from the potato chip family.

Anonymous said...

It wuld be great if all the people were not tied together in some way. And by that I mean, lawyers, police, judges, etc. Then and only then would something ever be changed in Alabama and other states. It all goes back to who you know, and this makes me sick! I realize Chace Swatek was a grown man and had a mind of his own. But aren't we as parents suppose to try and help our children no matter what? But some of these so called rich connected lawyers don't want anyone to know their family might have a problem. Well guess what, you are a parent first, in my book!!!