UnNews:Solvent abuse amongst Jewish Teens increases

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31 December 2008

Shfar'am teenager Machail Liberman sniffs gas from a paper bag.

Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv - Police and health workers have warned of a massive increase in numbers of Jewish teenagers who deliberately inhale solvents - most notably gas - for recreational purposes. Yakov Steinberg, a policeman with 20 years experience in Jerusalem reports "Kids have got bored with the sorts of things my generation used to get up to - the wild shofar parties of our youth, where'd we stay up dancing and playing dreidel for shekels. They're looking for new, illicit thrills, and tragically a lot of them are getting their kicks from sniffing gas."

Rebekah Cohen is a senior nurse at a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts in Tel-Aviv, where she has noticed a dramatic increase in numbers of teenagers seeking help to beat their cravings for gas. "This craze seems to have come from nowhere," she told our reporter, "The kids just aren't interested in going out to the West Bank or the Gaza Strip to get stoned anymore. That's old news to them, they want a new buzz."

Worryingly, the phenomenon is no longer confined to Israel with social workers in Europe also noting a rise in the problem amongst European teens.

Illegal sales to minors[edit]

The aftermath of an 18th birthday party in Haifa - empty gas canisters scattered everywhere.

Although the purchase of gas by people under the age of 18 is illegal in Israel and most European nations, teenagers have got around the problem by visiting garden centres and hardware stores where they are able to purchase hydrogen cyanide-based pesticides without any questions asked by shop staff. When exposed to the air, the pesticide releases the gas which is then either inhaled directly or collected in a paper bag and then inhaled from that in order to be able to control the rate at which the gas is dispensed and prolong the effects.

Solvent abusers are known to congregate in this disused communal shower in Western Poland.

Health risks[edit]

In addition to dangers posed by the gas itself, abusers risk injuring themselves while taking it as groups of them are known to congregate in derelict, unsafe buildings where they are less likely to be spotted by anyone who might report the crime to the police. Police in Germany, Poland and other European countries report that large groups of teenagers have been seen hanging around disused holiday camps dating from the 1940s.

Most worryingly, the problem may be spreading to Caucasian teens, such as this handsome, blue-eyed, golden-haired young Übermensch.


Maichail Liberman, a 19-year-old from Shfar'am in the north of Israel, started sniffing gas when he was just 10 and now uses as many as seven cans a day. "I started doing gas with my uncle," he says. "He came here from Germany where he'd got into it when he was a teenager. I knew that there was a risk of getting addicted to it, 'cos he's been on it for years." When asked about the effects of gas inhalation, Maichail develops a wistful look - it's obvious that just talking about the gas gives him a near-undeniable craving for the high it offers. "Man, there's nothing like it," he told us. "Just that first hit, when you first fill your lungs - so smooth. You hold it down, then let it go and take another breath of it and you feel yourself starting to come up, like you're floating."

However, doctors and other medical practitioners warn that the undesirable effects of gas inhalation far outweigh the pleasant feelings that Maichail reports. Dr. Shiloh Blomstein works in Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem where he has treated many of the huge numbers of teenagers brought in suffering complications arising from gas use in the last few years. "Even accidentally inhaling small amounts of this gas can be very dangerous," he claims. "Deliberately inhaling large amounts is tantamount to suicide - I really can't think of a more stupid thing to do."

A teenager slumps unconscious in a Haifa bus shelter, an empty gas canister next to him.

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This article features first-hand journalism by an UnNews correspondent.

See also: Solvent