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Saturday, 28 July, 2001, 00:00 GMT 01:00 UK
Drug users turn to embalming fluid
Cannabis
Cigarettes are soaked in fluid before being dried out
Recreational drug users in the US are using embalming fluid to get a high - even though it is highly dangerous and can make them violent and psychotic.

Research has found that the use of embalming fluid is becoming increasingly popular among young people who are searching for new drug experiences.


This is a violent drug, and it will turn into a big fire if it's not watched very closely

Julie Kirlin
It is thought that the craze has spread from the inner cities into more affluent suburban areas.

Julie Kirlin, a juvenile probation officer in Reading, about 50 miles from Philadelphia, said: "Kids who are smoking pot or crack and are looking for a different type of high are turning to wet.

"This is a violent drug, and it will turn into a big fire if it's not watched very closely."

The most common method is to dip a tobacco or marijuana cigarette in the embalming fluid, then dry it before smoking it.

"Wet"

The cigarettes are sold for about $20 a piece. They are known by a variety of names, including "wet", "fry" and "illy".

Embalming fluid is mixture of the preservative formaldehyde, methanol, ethanol and other solvents.

Formaldehyde can be bought in chemists, and is an ingredient of nail care products. It is also widely used in science labs.

There have been reports of the fluid being stolen from funeral parlours in Louisiana and New York.

The samples from the street that have been analysed have also been found to contain PCP, an anaesthetic that was dropped by hospitals after it was found to induce hallucinations. It is this component that is probably responsible for the users' high.

Scientists from the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse interviewed 20 users from the Houston area.

Hallucinations

They reported that the effects of embalming fluid included visual and auditory hallucinations, euphoria, a feeling of invincibility and increased pain tolerance. The high lasts from six hours to three days.

However, the drug also produced feeling of anger, forgetfulness and paranoia.

Last year a 14-year-old boy from Philadelphia fatally stabbed a neighbour more than 70 times after smoking wet.

Stranger symptoms reported include an overwhelming desire to undress and a strong dislike of meat.

Other symptoms may include coma, seizures, kidney failure and stroke.

Dr Julie Holland, of New York University School of Medicine, said: "The idea of embalming fluid appeals to people's morbid curiosity about death.

"There's a certain gothic appeal to it."

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26 Feb 01 | Health
Drug-related deaths soar
30 May 01 | Health
'One dose danger' of cocaine
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