Huffing Freon freezes the lungs and causes a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication.
"Even a single use can result in sudden death," said Dr. Shan Yin of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
Gail Henry knows the heartbreak. In tears, she has talked about her son Jacob, an 18-year-old college student who was found dead next to an air conditioning unit with a bag over his head.
"Huffing is a game of Russian roulette," Henry said. "Huffing affects everyone in your family. They have to live on."
The latest American Association of Poison Control Centers report says Freon huffing killed at least two teens in 2009 and sent more than 2,000 others to the hospital.
"Kids are trying to find the cheaper way to get high," said David Soikkeli, owner of DJS Heating & Air Conditioning in Covina. "The problem this can be a one-time occurrence. You can die the first time you ever use it."
In Southern California, disappearing Freon is a problem Soikkeli said he runs into frequently. People think they have a leak but what really is going on may be theft.
"I've gone out and filled out the Freon and a couple of days later I go back and the Freon is gone again," he said. "I look for the leak, can't find the leak anywhere, fill it up, it's gone again."
Parents can have a locking cap installed to prevent Freon from being taken. It's not sold to the public. An air conditioning service person can install one on the compressor, which stops Freon from being let out without a key. The caps cost about $25.
Gail is now warning teens about the dangers of Freon huffing. She urges parents to have locks installed and keep a close eye on their children.
"Don't ever considering doing it because that's five seconds of high that you get when you do it, it isn't worth dying over," she said.