Inhaling deodorant potentially lethal

Doctors in the Netherlands have warned people not to inhale deodorant spray following the death of a man who did so

The 19-year-old man was in a detoxification clinic receiving treatment for abuse of ketamine and cannabis when he turned to inhalant abuse, Dutch doctors write in BMJ Case Reports.

Young people with a history of drug misuse might be especially vulnerable in prison or rehab, in the absence of other drugs, because of the availability of household products, they say.

“Drug abuse by inhalation of volatile household product substances is uncommon, however, it can have devastating consequences,” they write.

“Volatile substances in household products can be used in various ways as drugs to attain an altered mental state. Although the gross of medical personnel is largely unfamiliar with intoxication due to inhalant abuse, the consequences can be severe.

“Cardiac arrest appears to be caused by increased myocardial sensitivity to catecholamines, coronary spasms, depressed myocardium or a combination of these pathophysiological mechanisms.”

Deodorant spray is one of several common household products, including paint thinner and hairspray, which contain substances that can be used for inhalant abuse.

The activity is popular among teens, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and may account for up to 125 deaths every year in the USA alone, say the authors.

Inhalant abuse comes in three forms: direct inhalation, known as sniffing; inhaling through a piece of clothing, known as ‘huffing’; and ‘bagging,’ which involves using a plastic bag or balloon.Volatile solutions, aerosols, and pressurised gasses are all potential candidates for abuse, say the authors.

The authors caution that the paper refers to only one case, but highlight that cardiac arrests after the inhalation of volatile substances have been reported for 40 years, with the first death associated with inhaling deodorant spray dating back to 1975.

In the case in question, a 19-year-old man was admitted to the authors’ hospital after a cardiac arrest.

He had been put on aripiprazole but while spending time with other patients in the rehab clinic, he put a towel over his head and inhaled the deodorant.

Basic life support and six rounds defibrillation failed to revive him and he was admitted to intensive care where he was put into an induced medical coma.

His condition did not improve, and realising that further treatment would be pointless, doctors withdrew it. He died shortly afterwards.

“The main toxic substance in deodorant spray inhalation is butane. Butane is one of the hydrocarbons commonly used in propellants in sprayable household products,” they write.

“Hydrocarbons are lipophilic and therefore easily cross the air-blood and blood-brain barrier. It [butane] dissolves into tissues with a high fat content such as the nervous system, fat tissue, liver and kidneys,” they explain.

However, “The misuse of volatile substances is one of the least known methods to attain an altered state by drugs.”

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