Dear Ann Landers,
Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a 22-year-old man who left behind a young daughter who will never know her father. He died because he tried to get a cheap high with laughing gas (nitrous oxide). He was driving at the time. When they pulled him out of the wreck, he still had the balloon in his mouth. That's going to be a great story to tell his daughter when she grows up.
At the time this man was dying, his two younger brothers were also out getting high. Their older brother had told them how much fun it was to inhale nitrous oxide. As if the parents don't have enough grief in their lives.
Please tell your readers to get high on life instead of killing themselves with cheap thrills. -- S.B. in Crawfordville, Fla.
I have printed several letters in my column about the dangers of inhalants, which include nitrous oxide (laughing gas), helium, aerosols, paint, cleaning solvents and gasoline. Inhalants work directly on the heart, the nervous system and other vital organs. The experts on the subject have made it abundantly clear that inhalants can be both addictive and deadly.
Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, can produce permanent damage to the nervous system -- this means the ability to see, hear, walk and talk. Helium, when inhaled from a tank or used long term, can cause asphyxiation, permanent brain damage, massive pulmonary hemorrhaging and death. The latest fad is "whippets," which are canisters used to make whipped cream and sold in gourmet and hardware stores.
Parents should discuss the dangers of inhalants with their children. They should also be alert to obvious signs of inhalant abuse such as paint stains on a child's hands or face; chemical odors on breath, clothing or rags; and the rapid disappearance of household aerosol or cleaning products. If inhalant use is suspected, parents should contact their local substance abuse or mental health program for help. Parents who want more information can call the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition at 1-800-269-4237 for a free video narrated by Deloris Jordan (Michael's mother).