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What is Embalming Fluid? Why Do People Smoke Embalming Fluid?

calendar June 25, 2021 user By Key To Recovery

What is embalming fluid? It’s a chemical that preserves dead people. Why do people smoke embalming fluid? It’s because it’s a popular drug for those looking for a new and different high. Unfortunately, it often comes with violent and psychotic side effects. Mainly teens and twenty-somethings are buying tobacco or marijuana cigarettes that have been soaked with it and then dried. The cigarettes cost about $20 each and are called by several names nationwide including:

  • Wet
  • Fry
  • Illy
  • Sherm

When Did People Start to Smoke Embalming Fluid? 

Embalming fluid marijuana cigarettes became more popular in the 1970s. The theory is that dealers eventually and mistakenly began using actual embalming fluid to intensify marijuana cigarettes. The current formula uses embalming fluid, PCP, or both because of this.

What is Embalming Fluid?

Embalming FluidEmbalming fluid is a compound made of formaldehyde, methanol, ethanol, and other solvents. Its main purpose is to slow the decomposition of dead bodies. Signs in funeral homes warn employees to wear protective clothing because it’s a cancer-causing chemical among other risks. From inhaling it, these are the possible side effects:

  • Inflammation/sores in the nose, throat, and esophagus
  • Destruction of body and muscle tissue
  • Brain damage—permanent loss of IQ
  • Lung damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Loss of coordination
  • High fever
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Coma
  • Convulsions
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Death

Often, people who want actual embalming fluid get it with phencyclidine (PCP) mixed in. But to make things more confusing, PCP has gone by the street name “embalming fluid” since the 1970s. “What they’re getting is often PCP, but the idea of embalming fluid appeals to people’s morbid curiosity about death,” said Dr. Julie Holland of New York University School of Medicine. “There’s a certain gothic appeal to it.”

Embalming fluid is cheap, easy to make, and appeals to adolescents. It comes in little bags with cartoon characters on them. But it’s becoming popular with college kids too. This is because it’s cheap and the high lasts from 6 hours to 3 days.

Why Do People Smoke Embalming Fluid? 

Embalming fluid isn’t a drug that can be used by itself, because it can’t be used in its pure form. But people smoke embalming fluid since it produces a high that is similar to PCP. Individuals sometimes use embalming fluid to dissolve the PCP but may use it alone. But when the user gets high, it isn’t the embalming fluid. In fact, it’s the formaldehyde, ethanol, and methanol to make embalming fluid that makes people high.

Although the high from embalming fluid is like PCP, embalming fluid is more toxic. People who smoke embalming fluid will dip their tobacco or marijuana into it to heighten the feeling. This is known as smoking a “wet drug.”

What Happens When People Smoke Embalming Fluid

The effects of smoking embalming fluid include: 

  • Anger
  • Euphoria
  • Forgetfulness
  • Feeling invincible
  • Higher pain tolerance
  • A strong distaste for meat
  • An overpowering desire to disrobe
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations

Who’s Using It?

Why Do People Smoke Embalming Fluid?Although there aren’t any national statistics on usage, many drug experts say informal evidence suggests wet drug use has spread from poor, minority, inner-city areas to wealthy, white, suburban neighborhoods and college campuses. Kate Malliarakis of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy reports that it seems to pop up in isolated incidents, in geographic groupings. It appears to spread by word of mouth, especially with kids.

It’s becoming increasingly popular for young adults and teenagers looking for a new and different high. What most users don’t know is that at some time during the dealing process, the embalming fluid is being laced with PCP. While they think they are smoking marijuana dipped in embalming fluid they are getting an extra high from the unknown PCP.


 Formaldehyde can be bought in drug stores and beauty supply stores. It can also be found in the science labs of many schools. And a pack of cigarettes can be bought at any gas station. However, “wet” made with marijuana and/or PCP is obviously not legal because one or both of its main components are federally regulated drugs.

Funeral Home Thefts

An embalming fluid supplier, Hydrol Chemical Co., claims it has received calls from parents who have found a bottle of embalming fluid in the freezer or in their child’s room. There have also been reports of embalming fluid thefts from funeral homes in Louisiana and New York. The company has sent suggestions to funeral homes about secure storage. Many are now taking steps to keep it in the morgue, under lock-and-key.

What is PCP?

PCP is also known as phencyclidine or angel dust. It was developed originally as a general anesthetic but became a popular substance of abuse in the 1960s. It can be taken orally, snorted, smoked, or injected, depending on the form. Most of the time it’s sold as a white crystalline powder.

Those who abuse “fry” are often not aware that it might contain the addictive drug, PCP,  The use of PCP often results in psychological dependence, craving, and compulsive PCP-seeking behavior. It causes unpleasant psychological effects, and users often become violent or suicidal. 

For young people, even moderate use of the drug can affect the hormones associated with normal growth and development negatively. PCP can also hinder the learning process in teenagers. 

Risks of Using  PCP

High doses of PCP can cause:

  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Death (usually as a result of accidental injury or suicide while under the effects of the drug)
  • Effects may resemble the symptoms associated with schizophrenia including delusions and paranoia

Risks associated with long-term or frequent use include :

  • Memory lossTaking PCP, even in low doses, can harm your memory. Long-term use can cause lasting learning and memory failure.
  • Persistent problems with speech or thinkingLong-term use can affect your ability to speak properly or at all. Speech issues can include stuttering, trouble speaking clearly, inability to speak.
  • Weight loss
  • Severe depressionLow doses commonly cause depression and anxiety, however, higher doses or frequent use can cause severe anxiety and depression with suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
  • Toxic psychosisChronic use can cause toxic psychosis. This is especially true for people who already have a history of mental health problems.

These problems, along with hallucinations and flashbacks, can last for up to a year after an individual has stopped their use. It’s crucial to seek professional medical help in this situation. 

Effects of Smoking “Fry”

smoke embalming fluidMarijuana is not usually considered to be a drug that can cause respiratory failure but it has been linked to chronic respiratory problems like bronchitis.  But exposure to tainted marijuana cigarettes has the potential to speed up organ failure, including respiratory failure. The inhalation of embalming fluid is associated with bronchitis, lung damage, and airway ulceration, compounding the negative respiratory effects.

Other effects include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • Poor coordination
  • Paranoia
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Visual disturbances

What’s In a Name?

Is it sherm or a sherm stick? Is it wet or fry? No one can agree on the definition of any of these terms. Whether it’s tobacco and embalming fluid or marijuana and PCP, or a combination of all of these drugs, the effects can be long-lasting or life-threatening. And many users don’t even know what they’re getting when they buy the “dip,” “sherm,” or “drank.” 

One thing is for sure though. What they’re getting can have effects on their life long after the cigarette is gone. But there is an effective treatment if they live long enough to get it and get it in time.

Recognizing a PCP Overdose

It’s vital to call 911 immediately if you or anyone else shows these signs of an overdose:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Constricted pupils
  • High body temperature
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Behaving aggressively
  • Loss of coordination
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Treatment for Wet Drug Abuse

Unfortunately, there aren’t any medications available to treat PCP addiction by reducing the effects or reducing the cravings. But there is treatment.


Like other dangerous drugs, wet drugs should be treated with a medically supervised detox first. During withdrawal from  you may experience these symptoms:

  • Drug cravings
  • Headaches
  • Increased appetite
  • Sleepiness
  • Depression
  • Sweating

Patients may need medication during detox. Depending on the severity, duration, and the many side effects of the addiction, the individual may even need hospitalization.

Treatment Programs

At this time, behavior therapy is the only effective treatment for wet drug or PCP abuse. There may still be some withdrawal symptoms even after detox. That’s why a residential program is typically necessary to help people manage withdrawal symptoms.

What is a Residential Treatment Program?

In a residential treatment program, you will live at the treatment facility. This protects you from outside influences and triggers that may derail your recovery. Also, you will have access to 24-hour medical attention if needed. During this time you will focus on yourself and getting well. 

What is Behavioral Therapy?

Behavioral therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) have proven to be the most effective treatment for drug and alcohol addictions. 


CBT involves efforts to change patterns of thinking that are causing problems and also to change behavioral patterns. Therapists emphasize what is going on in the person’s life now rather than what led up to their


DBT is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy, but its main goals are to teach the person how to live in the moment, learn healthy ways to deal with stress, regulate their emotions, and improve relationships with other people.


Psychotherapy (talk therapy) involves one-on-one counseling with a therapist designed to help the individual understand underlying problems or issues that may have influence over their drug use in the first place.  

Group therapy takes place in a group setting with typically 5-15 group members and up to 2 therapists. In group sessions, members discuss problems and strategies for handling stress, and relapse prevention.

The Key to Your Recovery

You can find the key to your recovery at The Key to Recovery in Orange County, California. Contacting us now will be your first step. We have the programs, the beautiful facility, the experienced professionals, and the financing options. But most of all, sobriety is our passion and mission. We are looking forward to doing this for you.