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'I want nitrous oxide off the market': Devastated mother warns of dangerous addiction after son dies by suicide

'I want nitrous off the market, and if it can't be off the market, then I want regulations,' Julia Charleston said after her son's death
Julia Charleston's son Robert Howland died in May (Facebook/ Julia Charleston)
Julia Charleston's son Robert Howland died in May (Facebook/ Julia Charleston)

CLYDE TOWNSHIP, MICHIGAN: An Alabama mother has opened up about her son’s tragic death by suicide after he became addicted to nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. Julia Charleston’s son Robert Howland was found dead in May after she had a disturbing call with him in March, days before he vanished with his truck and his 9mm Glock.

Charleston revealed that days after he went missing, she went to his house in Clyde Township in Michigan and was shocked to find the place “littered with hundreds of empty nitrous oxide tanks”. The devastated mother told Insider that Howland was living in Michigan away from family after serving two tours in Iraq. However, she mentioned that the 34-year-old had begun school and was developing a good equation with the family.


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The mother also noted that though Howland suffered with substance abuse earlier, she did not know about his nitrous oxide addiction. She claimed that her son did not take his own life but it was the laughing gas, which has medical usage, which killed him. She said: “I believe in my whole heart that Rob, that my son did not kill himself. That the nitrous drove him there, that he didn't have any choice,” before stating, “I never thought he would take his life because he promised me that he wouldn't, and I believed him. So I just thought he ran away from the nitrous — he got help.”

Charleston recalled that in the months before Howland disappeared and his body was discovered in his truck in New Baltimore’s parking lot on May 11, he’d “just kept pulling further and further away from me”. The woman, who works at a Christian addiction recovery facility, claimed that “he just insisted that he was going to be okay, and he even told me, 'I can quit anytime I want to.' Now, again, I didn't know about the nitrous. I thought we were talking about Adderall or something else, maybe marijuana.”

Robert Howland's house was full of
Robert Howland's house was full of "empty nitrous oxide tanks" (Facebook/ Julia Charleston)

But it was actually nitrous oxide and as per the US Drug Enforcement Administration, “Inhalant abuse can cause damage to the parts of the brain that control thinking, moving, vision, and hearing. Cognitive abnormalities can range from mild impairment to severe dementia. With successive inhalations, users may suffer loss of consciousness and/or death.”

Charleston said to Insider, “Rob had ordered a lot of the stuff off of Amazon, and off of the manufacturer website, you can order as much as you want and have it shipped right to your house. There's no age limit. Anybody can get their hands on it.” The mother has now initiated a Facebook group, called ‘M.A.N.O.S. [Mom’s Against Nitrous Oxide]’, while requesting stricter rules regarding the sale of nitrous oxide.

She noted, “I want nitrous off the market, and if it can't be off the market, then I want regulations. And if it can't be regulated, then I want a warning label that this stuff could cause death. I'm just so desperate to get the stuff off the market and to protect families from having to go through 63 days of hell only to find out their loved one died the night that they went missing.”

Charleston added: “I believe that this is my next steps in what I'm supposed to do, and I'm supposed to pursue this in order to honor Rob. I have to honor him, and otherwise his death will just be in vain, and I can't let that happen.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).