Cheap, easy, deadly: Butane new high for young addicts in UAE

Gas is a silent killer, they say. That was definitely the case for Anton Tahmasian, who died in 2010 after using butane to get high. An unknown teenager died in 2012 from the same cause.

Getting high on butane gas has spread among youngsters in the UAE over recent years. It could probably be best compared to inhaling glue, or to an extent has a similar effect like the laughing gas, as it gives you an instant urge to laugh.

However, little is known about the extent of its use in the UAE and it is only when it comes to hospitalisation that the drug comes to the fore.

"We have recently seen two cases of teenagers who set their car on fire while inhaling gases," said Marwan Ahmad al Zarouni, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at Rashid Hospital.

"They inhaled the gas in the car, and then somebody used a lighter to light a cigarette. An explosion was the result."

Juma Sultan Alshamsi, Head, Awareness and Precaution, Department of the General Department of Anti Narcotics, Dubai Police, said: "We do not know of many cases, because the use of this drug is difficult to identify."

"In general drug tests, we take a urine sample to discover the use of drugs. But in the case of gas, you must take a blood test to discover it and it must be taken on the same day. This is difficult to realise."

Due to this difficulty and the easy accessibility of butane gas – which comes in lighter fluid canisters- numbers on the use of butane gas in Dubai are unavailable.

"This is a new phenomenon that is spreading among the youth in the emirate,” Lt Colonel Ahmed Al Muhairi, director of the Department of Criminology has said earlier in a media report.

The drug is harmful when wrongly inhaled. a blog post quoted an ex-user as saying, "If you do it at the wrong angle, it'll go straight down your throat and freeze your lungs, which is how people die from it."

The ex-user was also quoted as saying: "Yeah, people get addicted and do it all the time — before school, in break time, even at the back of class. You can do it anywhere because it just smells like — well, you know what lighter fluid smells like. No one's going to suspect anything and the smell disappears almost instantly."

"Youngsters seem to introduce this to each other. It is easy to find out about it on the internet, and then it spreads. It is a matter of peer-pressure; all friends are doing it so you will do it," said Juma.

His department carries out regular campaigns against the use of any drug in schools, but sometimes kids know more about the drug than the lecturers, he added.

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