Kids Use Embalming Fluid as Drug

In the Philadelphia suburb of Morrisville, a 14-year-old boy fatally stabbed a 33-year-old neighbor more than 70 times in May 2000, after smoking wet he purchased in Trenton, N.J. The boy, who said he took "wet" to quiet the voices in his head, is serving a seven-year sentence in a juvenile facility. In Connecticut, "illy" first appeared in 1995 and was cited as a factor in at least four deaths. It was believed by users to be marijuana and mint leaves, but tests showed it contained those ingredients plus embalming fluid and PCP, Pestana said. In Oklahoma, three young girls reported last year that they were sexually assaulted by male acquaintances after the group smoked "fry." Although there are no national statistics on usage, many drug experts say anecdotal evidence suggests wet has spread from poor, minority inner-city areas to affluent, white suburban neighborhoods and college campuses. "It seems to pop up in isolated incidents; we see it in [geographic] groupings," said Kate Malliarakis of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Unfortunately it seems to spread by word of mouth, especially with kids."

Reports of Thefts from Funeral Homes

The chemical poses an added problem for police because it is legal. Formaldehyde can be purchased in drug stores and beauty supply stores (it is an ingredient in nail care products). It's also available in many school science labs. Hydrol Chemical Co. in Yeadon, an embalming fluid supplier to funeral homes, has received one or two calls with questions from "parents who found a bottle of embalming fluid in the freezer or in their child's room," chief chemist Richard Hoffman said. There also have been reports of embalming fluid thefts from funeral homes in Louisiana and New York. The company sent suggestions to funeral homes about secure storage, and the industry is taking note. "We'd always kept our chemicals in our garage but since we heard about it, we keep everything stored inside the funeral home, in the morgue" under lock-and-key, said Christopher Dinan of Dinan Funeral Home in Philadelphia. Kirlin said police have their hands full putting out the big fires — the cocaine, heroin and marijuana trades — and that wet doesn't pose the same huge problems associated with those drugs, but she is concerned wet may become more widespread if left unchecked. "This is a violent drug, and it will turn into a big fire if it's not watched very closely," Kirlin said.

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