More teens are huffing Freon to get high

FRESNO, Calif.

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Air conditioning systems keep us nice and cool during the warmer months. But it's also making teenagers high. What many don't realize is inhaling Freon, can be fatal.

"They kind of try to find a lot of things to do to get high, because we're a drug free group home, a drug free environment," Connie Clendenan said. "So the object of the lesson is we're not going to do drugs, we're not going to be high."

Clendenan heads Valley Teen Ranch, a residential group home in Madera for delinquent boys -- many that are in for substance abuse issues. "We're about prevention, so our goal is to help them, not to have a problem with Freon at Valley Teen Ranch, or anywhere else that they go."

Recently, they secured their ac units with locking caps to prevent sites like this from happening within its walls.

Dr. Richard Geller with California Poison Control said, "The problem with feons and they are very dangerous compounds, is that the gases can replace the oxygen in the lungs and cause severe state of oxygen depletion and that can lead to death or neurologic injury."

Doctor Richard Geller from the Poison Control Center at Children's Hospital advises teenagers, and anyone else for that matter, to stay away from Freon. "We've seen over the years, too many tragedies from inhalation abuse."

But the warning doesn't seem to be getting through.

"It's been pretty bad," Simon De La Cerda said. "Over the last three or four months, we've installed roughly 100 sets of caps."

Valley Air Conditioning and Repair has received many calls from customers saying they've seen teens taking the refrigerant from the AC system and inhaling it.

A simple solution? Securing the Freon valves with locking caps.

"The nice thing about the locking cap is it does require a tool to put it on. Which means it requires a tool to take it off," Simon De La Cerda said. "Once those are set, it's completely locked. The Freon is not going anywhere."

The locking cap devices run around $25.00 dollars a pop. But it can be more expensive if your AC system is hit. The cost of refrigerant is about $50.00 a pound. And an AC unit typically holds 10-pounds of Freon, which adds up to more than $400.00.

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