The 18-year-old French woman was hospitalized with scaly skin on her legs and hands, appearing unsteady and mentally sluggish, doctors said.
They found the condition puzzling, especially since the woman’s twin sister displayed similar, but less severe, symptoms and there was no family history of the problem, the doctors reported in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine.
Then they found a bag of mothballs statshed in her hospital room.
The two teenagers had been using the mothballs to get high. They been inhaling the air in the bag for about 10 minutes a day, at the advice of their friends. They continued to use the mothballs, even when hospitalized, because they thought the symptoms were unrelated. (Er……)
The sicker of the women took six months to recover fully. Her twin, who had only been “bagging” for a few weeks, recovered after three months.
Feuillet told Reuters that a cleaning lady discovered the mothballs in the drawer of the patient’s night table.
When the woman was asked what she was doing with the bag, “she showed us how she used to breathe directly into the mothballs bag,” Feuillet said.
Mothballs contain paradichlorobenzene, which can cause liver and kidney failure, and naphthalene can cause brain damage, seizure, and coma (among other nasty side effects). Apparently this situation isn’t so isolated.
From “Medical Complications Due to Mothball Abuse” on MedScape:
….a 10-year-old American Indian boy who inhaled naphthalene mothballs for 8 hours nightly for 2 months and died of liver failure after progressive portal hypertension developed; a 26-year-old woman who “sucked on moth balls” during the last trimester of her pregnancy and developed anemia; a 19-year-old woman who smelled, chewed, and sucked mothballs during pregnancy and became anemic; and a 15-year-old boy who sucked mothballs, had mid-epigastric pain and vomiting, and subsequently received a diagnosis of anemia.
In one case, a 19-year-old black woman ingested four to five paradichlorobenzene moth pellets per day for 2 years and had sluggishness and tremulousness when she stopped. In the other case, a 21-year-old woman ingested two paradichlorobenzene toilet air freshener blocks a week while pregnant; anemia developed that did not respond to iron therapy.
Darwin Awards, anyone???