TEENAGERS WHO smoke heroin thinking it is safer than injecting the drug are now presenting with chronic lung disease, a conference in Dublin heard yesterday.

Several young people, one of them just 18 years old, have presented at the emergency department of the Mater hospital with lungs one would expect to see in a “70-year-old who had been smoking all their lives”.

Rosaleen Reilly, a respiratory nurse at the hospital, presented her findings at the annual conference of the National Council for the Professional Development of Nursing and Midwifery. She said the patients presented with what were akin to asthma attacks, but did not respond to asthma treatment quickly. Their symptoms were similar to those seen in older people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, she said.

In her study, one male aged 18 who smoked up to 20 bags of heroin a day since his early teens first presented with respiratory distress in November 2008. He now has emphysema.

source: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/1111/1224283092985.html