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FIRST-PERSON: Pray & warn others about teens’ use of inhalants

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The lives of Diane and Ricky Stem Sr. changed forever on June 20, 1996. Their son, Ricky Jr., a dynamic Christian since the age of 7, a leader in his church youth group and an all-midstate baseball player died after “huffing” freon from his home air conditioning unit.

After dealing with the initial grief of Ricky’s death, Diane, an executive assistant at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Ricky Sr. began to speak out forcefully against the danger they didn’t even know existed when it claimed the life of their son.

“The Lord is going to use Ricky’s death. We cannot let it be in vain,” Diane says.

The facts are alarming. An estimated 441,000 teens between the ages of 12 and 17 use inhalants each month. Using inhalants even once can put a person at risk for sudden death, suffocation, visual hallucinations, severe mood swings, numbness and tingling of the hands and feet.

In a letter to the columnist, “Dear Abby,” Diane urges parents “to become educated on the dangers and don’t assume your child would never try this. Many times the kids that would not try illegal drugs will experiment with inhalants.”

March 18-24 is National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week and March 18 is Substance Abuse Awareness Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention. If you are interested in more information about the danger of inhalants, visit www.inhalants.org on the Internet or call the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition at 1-800-269-4237. Use the information you gain to warn parents and teens of the dangers lurking in their homes. Resources about Substance Abuse Awareness Sunday are available from the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Visit their website at www.erlc.com or call (615) 244-2495.

Ricky Stem Jr. had attended church services three times the week before he died. That is the same number of times he tried inhalants. Within one week of the first time he tried “huffing,” Ricky was dead.

Pray for Diane and Ricky Stem Sr. as they work to spare others the tragedy they have experienced. Pray for other families that have been victimized by this killer of young people. And let us warn others about the deadly danger of inhalants.
Draper is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    About the Author

  • James T. Draper Jr.