Friday, July 28, 2006

Mothball sniffing warning issued

Doctors have warned teenagers about the dangers of sniffing mothballs after two teenagers fell ill through the habit.
An 18-year-old French girl had to be hospitalised when she developed scaly skin on her legs and hands, unsteadiness and mental sluggishness.
Medics were initially puzzled, especially as her twin sister displayed similar, but milder, symptoms.
But the New England Journal of Medicine reports that days later, it was found the mothballs were to blame.
It was discovered that the girls had been using the mothballs as a recreational drug when doctors found a bag of mothballs stashed in her room while she was being treated at the Hospital of Timone in Marseille.
Both girls had been "bagging" - inhaling mothball fumes - after encouragement from classmates.
The twin who was sickest had also been chewing half a mothball a day for two months.
She continued her habit in hospital because she did not think her symptoms were linked to the mothballs.
The balls, used to prevent moths getting into clothes, contain paradichlorobenzene (PDB), a substance also found in air fresheners and insect repellents but which can cause liver and kidney failure, and severe anaemia.
The doctors who treated the girls said the habit was "dangerous" and most likely under-reported in medical literature.
The sickest teenager took six months to recover fully.
Her twin, who had only been "bagging" for a few weeks, recovered after three months.
Writing in the journal, Dr Lionel Feuillet said: "Substance abuse by youths is a major public health concern.
"PDB is derived from aromatic hydrocarbons, which form one of the families of volatile substances that are commonly abused."
He said only three cases have been reported of getting high using mothballs.
But he added: "Since young people usually deny practicing self-intoxication, the incidence of this type of recreational activity is probably underestimated."
He said clinicians should be aware of the symptoms.
A spokesman for the UK organisation Drugscope said: "We are not aware that sniffing or eating mothballs is an issue in the UK.
"However, any form of volatile substance abuse (VSA) is incredibly dangerous.
"About a third of the young people who die from VSA die the first time they try it."

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Monday, July 10, 2006

New kids craze that could kill

By Joe Oliver
09 July 2006
It's known as the craze that kills and it could be heading for Ulster after leaving a trail of death across America and central Europe.
More than 150 kids have died from 'dusting', which involves inhaling compressed air from sprays used for cleaning computer keyboards.
Just one hit can be fatal because youngsters believe there is no volatile substance involved in what they're using.
But dust-off products contain a dangerous ingredient called fluorinated hydrocarbon that can paralyse the body as well as giving users a buzz.
Damage can occur to the brain, lungs, kidneys? and it can trigger a fatal heart attack.
And despite the fact that the compressed air containers are legal to buy, no anti-drugs or solvent abuse agency in Northern Ireland is tracking or collecting information on dusting.
Indeed, the Department of Health said it had "never heard of it" and drugs tsar Rob Phipps was "not available" to discuss the legal killer.
The dusting craze was seen as such a threat to middle-class kids in Canada that in one state the RCMP openly warned parents, despite concerns that publicising the practice might encourage others to try it.
Barbara Skinner, chief executive of the London-based Solve It charity is well aware of the dangers of dust-off products.
"They do not carry any warning in the UK despite containing compressed gas fuelled by butane," she said.
"We believe labelling must be made obligatory, because you are talking about a very volatile substance."
In the film Thirteen, two teen characters are seen sitting on a bed dusting and then slapping each other to bring themselves down from their high.
It's estimated that one in five young people aged between 11-16 in Northern Ireland have used solvents.
And 10 times more suffer a serious reaction as a result of inhaling vapours than from Ecstasy tablets.
Researcher Colleen Dell, of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse in Ottawa, said: "The understanding among kids is that there is no gas involved in computer duster products.
"They believe that they are intaking air - and that is completely false and highly dangerous."
Art Brandon, of the Chicago Alcohol and Substance Abuse centre, told Sunday Life: "Dusting is a massive problem in America and it's spreading worldwide.
"The best thing to do is get the proper information out there now, so that people know exactly what they're dealing with."