Bizarre Addiction Confounded Docs
> 7/28/2006 8:47:50 AM

Huffing and its associated dangers are nothing new to medical practitioners, but a recent case in France had doctors scratching their heads. According to the BBC, twin French teens, 18, had to be hospitalized with a number of puzzling symptoms that included ichthyosis-like dermatosis, iron-deficiency anemia and lymphoneutropenia, as well as an unsteadyness on her feet and a marked mental sluggishness. It's best if the BBC explains, as it is almost too bizarre to believe:

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.

Any number of substances have been used for huffing or bagging over the years. Whether it is airplane glue or computer cleaner, if it will give you a buzz, someone has probably tried to inhale it. But this case illustrates perfectly all the dangers of the practice, almost to a tee. The reality is that these girls were lucky that the doctors were able to pick up on their habit in time, otherwise we could be writing about a tragic obituary.

As with virtually all cases of huffing, the products being abused were never intended to be inhaled. Many times that means doctors and emergency care responders are unprepared for what they find. As in this case, those abusing household products may present with any number of symptoms, forcing doctors and care providers to make educated guesses and hope for the best. There is just simply no excuse for this type of behavior, and one can only hope that the negative outcomes like the ones seen in France will deter future potential teens from taking up the disgusting habit.

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