Hanging out with other patients in a drug rehabilitation center in the Netherlands, the 19-year-old decided to get high.
He had been admitted after abusing cannabis and ketamine, a medication used in anesthesia, but without access to common drugs, he tried something else — draping a towel over his head and inhaling butane from a deodorant spray can.
The teen then became hyper — jumping up and down.
Then he collapsed.
The account comes from a case report published Thursday in BMJ Case Reports, which states that the teen had gone into cardiac arrest. When paramedics arrived, they used defibrillation, shocking his heart six times, before transporting him to a hospital in Rotterdam, where he was placed into a medically induced coma.
Days later, he died.
“Drug abuse by inhalation of volatile household product substances is uncommon, however, it can have devastating consequences,” the authors wrote in their report, adding that “Inhalant abuse can be a cause of death in young patients.”
Research shows that inhaling toxic substances is one of the least common ways people get high, but such methods are more often used by adolescents who don’t have easy access to drugs. In 2017, 4.7 percent of eighth-graders, 2.3 percent of high school sophomores and 1.5 percent of high school seniors surveyed had used inhalants at some point over the past year, according to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens.
The Mayo Clinic states that more than 1,000 household chemicals, such as nail polish remover, shoe polish, cooking spray, markers and glue, can be used as inhalants.
Users can get high from the fumes — spraying them into a rag or bag and breathing them in, sniffing them directly from the can or spraying them into their noses and mouths, according to the Mayo Clinic. It states that breathing in the toxic fumes can “causes a sense of euphoria that lasts about 15 to 45 minutes.”
“For many kids, inhalants provide a cheap and accessible alternative to alcohol or marijuana,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
But it can also cause headaches, dizziness, slurred speech and, ultimately, death.
“If an inhalant causes the heart to work too hard, a rapid, irregular heartbeat (dysrhythmia) could trigger lethal heart failure — even for first-time inhalers,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “Chronic inhalant use can cause serious liver and kidney damage. Permanent brain damage, hearing loss, certain types of cancer and coordination problems are possible as well.”
“Sudden sniffing death” can occur when a heart loses the ability to function after a person inhales toxic substances to get high, according to the recent case report.
The report states that abusing such substances has been estimated to cause 100 to 125 deaths per year in the United States.
The Mayo Clinic has provided a list of warning signs for parents who suspect that their children might be inhaling substances.
Inhalant use can be easy to conceal. Look for these warning signs:
Hidden rags, clothes, bags, gauze or empty containers of products that could be abused
Chemical odors on breath or clothing
Paint or other stains on face, hands or clothing
Slurred or incoherent speech
Appearing drunk or dazed
Nausea or loss of appetite
A rash around the mouth that extends to the middle of the face (glue-sniffers rash)
Lack of coordination and attentiveness, irritability, depression