Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Medical Reports: Dying to Try
Every parent worries about what happens when their child is unsupervised. But forget drugs and alcohol -- today, kids are turning to a household cleaner that's easily obtained and even easier to abuse. In tonight's special assignment report, 7's Tom Haynes has more on this high kids are Dying to Try.
WSVN -- It could be in your office.
Jeff Williams: "These are products that we buy, that we bring into the house."
In your closet, next to your computer -- a spray can -- seemingly harmless with the ability to produce a killer high.
Jeff Williams: "It's an unforgiving product, it's an unforgiving death. It doesn't give you second chances."
Jeff Williams never got a second chance with his son Kyle.
Last year, Jeff's wife found their 14-year-old son dead in bed after he didn't come down for breakfast.
Jeff Williams: "He didn't move, and she walked into his room and there was a straw coming out of his mouth and the can of computer duster between his legs, and he was dead."
The autopsy report showed Kyle's heart stopped after inhaling from a can of computer dusting spray.
He died from what kids call "dusting" -- a cheap thrill that can be bought legally and found easily.
Today, it's almost as common as marijuana, yet parents know nothing about it.
Jeff Williams -- a police officer -- was never suspicious of his son.
But he knows why kids are dying to try it.
Jeff Williams: "The thing about inhalant abuse is, number one, the kids think that this is safe."
That's because they see it in movies and videos like this one we found on YouTube.
Tom Haynes: "But what is really scary is the demographic for dusting. This is not a college campus drug. In fact, the average users are kids in elementary and middle school."
Ray Estefania: "We're talking kids as young as sometimes 11, 12 years old. Certainly by the time they're 13, 14 many kids have experimented with inhalants."
At South Miami Hospital's Addiction Treatment Center, counselors like Ray Estefania say there are warning signs.
Parents need to be on the lookout if their children have a change in personality and complain of a numb tongue.
Ray Estefania: "You're going to see things like intoxicated behavior, almost like if your drunk. You might see them being lethargic, apathetic, sleeping a lot, changes in their personality."
Seventeen-year-old Nicholas East knows firsthand what it can do.
He started dusting two years ago.
Nicholas East: "I didn't get into dusting 'til I was about 15 years old and really just because you could walk into and get a couple bottles and no one ever said anything."
Nicholas knows he is lucky to be alive -- especially since he would dust, drive and then pass out behind the wheel.
Nicholas East: "It felt like your brain was moving real fast and there would be a noise that was just pounding in your ears, and it made it seem like you had robots in your head."
And like so many other parents, Nicholas' mother had no idea her child was getting high on a household cleaner.
Alexandra East: "I started to wonder why he was so depressed, but I thought maybe he was depressed. But I had no idea he was doing what he was doing."
But what most kids don't realize is dusting can be as dangerous as any narcotic out there.
Users can even suffer from what's called Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, which means they die the first time they try it.
Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein: "The dusting or duster-type cans contain flourocarbons. Fluorocarbons sensitize your heart to your own adrenaline."
At Florida's Poison Information Center on the University of Miami Medical School Campus, the calls come in continuously about inhalant abuse.
Just this year, more than 70 cases -- some of them fatal.
Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein: "This is a sudden cardiac arrhythmia or sudden cardiac death, and so we find people dead in the bathroom, where they were hiding, with the spray can still in their hand."
Jeff Williams never thought he would have to make a call like that.
Today, he honors Kyle's memory by warning other parents of the warning signs he missed.
Jeff Williams: "Kyle's friend told him, 'Go ahead, go ahead it can't hurt you.' He didn't relate this to drugs, just a fun thing to do that is safe, and it cost him his life."
Because of Kyle's death, one of the top manufacturers of computer dusting spray recently added a bittering agent to the spray in the hopes of reducing the number of kids who try it.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Florida Poison Information Center
South Miami Hospital Treatment Addiction Center Adolescent Program
6200 SW 73 Street
Miami, FL 33143
National Inhalant Prevention Coalition
New England Inhalant Abuse Prevention Coalition
58 Oak Ridge Road
Medford, MA 02155