Funeral Industry News

A Dead Man’s High: Embalming Fluid

August 26, 2009

A Dead Man’s High: Embalming Fluid

image Special Report From KIITV 3 in South Texas: We’ve got a special report this morning on a topic that many parents will find shocking. It concerns a new trend among teen drug abusers. It’s embalming fluid, mostly formaldehyde. Of course funeral homes need to have it on hand, but teenagers need to stay away from it.

It’s used on dead bodies: a concoction of formaldehyde, methanol, and ethanol, also known as embalming fluid. It’s meant to preserve the dead just long enough for a funeral.

“It’s not meant for living humans ,” said a local addict.”

But some in Corpus Christi, are risking their lives and smoking embalming fluid to get high.

“It makes your body feel like you are made out of rubber and makes you feel bullet proof,” said the addict.

“I have seen a spike recently in the younger kids,” said Chemical Dependency Counselor Renee Lovett.

On the streets here, it’s called wet, sherm or dip. Users say the high sometimes makes them “stuck” or unable to move, and other times violent and out of control.

“You have no feeling, no thought process on what your about to do,” said the addict.

One local recovering addict, who wants to remain anonymous says he would buy embalming fluid from drug houses on the North and West sides of town for 50 bucks a vile.

“You dip a cigarette –a joint –whatever and you light it up and smoke it,” he said.

The Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse say the dealers are getting the embalming fluid from chemical companies and from those who smuggle it out of funeral homes, hospitals and morgues. Locally, funeral directors have heard of the problem.

“We keep an inventory of our fluids and we keep our doors locked — you saw the combination lock on the door ,” said Mark Cooper of Seaside Memorial Park and Funeral Home.

Cooper has been stolen from in the past at a funeral home in Dallas. Here he’s been extra percautious. But chemical dependency counselor Renee Lovett says embalming fluid is easy to get. As easy as the internet.

“It’s really scary too because too because it’s not regulated,” said Lovett.

She says the worst part is what local teenagers are doing to their bodies. Signs at Seaside Memorial park and Funeral Home warn employees over and over that embalming fluid is a cancer causing chemical. From inhaling it, here are the possible side effects: Bronchitis, body tissue destruction, brain damage, lung damage, impaired coordination, inflammation and sores in the throat, nose and esophagus damage, high fever, heart attacks, high blood pressure, kidney damage, destruction of muscle tissue, coma, convulsions, coughing, pneumonia, and death.

“It’s going to cause permanent brain damage, loss of IQ,”said Lovett. “We see kids, it’s really sad, that don’t get their IQ back. They have trouble in school. They have trouble with abstract thinking.”

“My mind still isn’t completely there,” said the addict. “It’s getting back but it takes time. It slows your mind down.”

Embalming fluid is such a hazardous dangerous chemical that workers here at Seaside Memorial Park and Funeral Home have to put on protective clothing from head to toe just to handle the toxic chemical.

“It has a purpose for us in our industry,” said Funeral Director Norman Gonzales. “It was never meant to be used outside our industry and those people who take irresponsibility in using it, risk their lives, damage their organs and their mind as well. And abusive use element of formaldehyde eventually you will end up in somebody’s funeral home.”

“Why should people be concerned about embalming fluid or people smoking this stuff?,” asked Reporter Sabrina Hall.

“Because it does permanent damage to our children,” said Lovett. “That’s my main concern, that kids don’t know what they are putting into their body. They are not educated.”

Experts want teenagers to know better so they won’t inhale something so grave.

Drug abuse experts say embalming fluid on the streets is often mixed with PCP. Concerned parents should look for the following signs in their children: elevated levels of anger and forgetfulness, increased fighting, and even physical signs such as unexplained bruises and sores. And for parents, it never hurts to ask lots of questions.

Has this been a problem in you area? Let us know what changes are being made to stop it.