(FOX19) - It's shocking and it's fast becoming the latest trend. Teens are now huffing Freon, the gas found in air conditioning systems, and sometimes with fatal consequences.
There's video after video of teens experimenting by inhaling the coolant. One video shows a teen so disoriented he stumbles, knocking stuff off a table. In another video, a teen huffs, and then falls to the ground drooling.
Freon causes a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication.
Dr. Shan Yin from Cincinnati Children's Hospital says even a single use can result in sudden death.
Gail Henry knows that heartbreakingly well. Her 18-year-old college son, Jacob, was found dead next to an air conditioning unit with a bag over his head. She says he had been huffing Freon.
"Huffing affects everybody in your family and all your friends because when does kill you they have to live on," she says.
The latest American Association of Poison Control Center report says Freon huffing killed at least two teens in 2009. And more than two thousand were treated in the hospital.
Huffing Freon can literally cause your lungs to freeze. It can also cause frostbite to your airway, sudden cardiac death, loss of consciousness and brain damage.
At Arlinghaus Heating and Air in Elsmere, a padlocked gate now surrounds their compressor. It had so many problems with people stealing Freon the owners finally had to fence it off. Co-owner Brian Arlinghaus also says he gets calls from customers who think they have a slow Freon leak. It later turns out that it's Freon theft, which only takes seconds for teens to do.
"These are things now in our industry that we've got to be looking for and protecting the youth from having accessibility from deadly refrigerants that can kill you," he says.
A way to protect teens from accessibility from Freon is a so-called "Freon Lock," and they could be a life saver. You're A/C service person can install one on your compressor which makes it impossible to let Freon out without a key.
Gail Henry urges parents to have these locks installed and to keep a close eye their teenagers. She says that the Freon high isn't worth it.
"Don't ever considering doing it because that five seconds of high you get when you do it isn't worth dying over."
The Freon Locks cost about twenty-five dollars. New air conditioners on the market will have an internal hose which makes it more difficult to access the Freon.
Experts say prevention is the best way for parents to combat this problem, make sure you talk to your kids and tell them how dangerous it is. If you suspect a problem seek professional help immediately. Freon does not show up in drug tests.