Actress Skye McCole Bartusiak’s shocking death at 21 was tied today (Oct. 13) to abuse of dangerous prescription drugs and a chemical found in common household products, which should raise red flags for parents.
Bartusiak, best known for playing Mel Gibson’s young daughter in the 2000 film The Patriot, was found dead in her parent’s home last July.
She apparently had suffered one or more seizures and choked to death. But officials in her Texas hometown revealed today (Oct. 13) that difluoroethane, a propellant found in common household aerosol spray cans, was found in her system.
The substance produces a euphoric high when inhaled, but has been known to trigger seizures and other health consequences when too much is ingested.
Authorities also said that Vicodin, a painkiller and Carisoprodol, a prescription muscle relaxant were also found in her system, according to TMZ.
Bartusiak played an important role in Gibson’s film. She was the daughter of his character Benjamin Martin who could not talk to her father and had a key scene. (See below).
Her first major role was in the blockbuster Cider House Rules, in 1999. The Academy Award winning film starred Tobey Maguire, Michael Caine and Charlize Theron.
“The Patriot” followed and she also starred opposite Michael Douglas in the 2001 film “Don’t Say a Word.”
She continued to find work largely in television films and low-budget movies up through 2012. She had the lead in her last film “Sick Boy,” a low budget indie thriller.
Her death was ruled an accidental overdose based on the substances found in her system.
Difluoroethane is one of several substances found in spray paints, markers, glues and cleaning fluids that have psychoactive, mind-altering effects when inhaled, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Abusers sniff or snort the chemicals, which is known in street slang as “huffing.”
Huffing concentrated amounts of the chemicals cause heart failure within minutes. This syndrome even has a clinical name, “sudden sniffing death,” according to the NIDA.
High concentrations may also cause death from suffocation, the organization reports.
Young teens between the ages of 13 and 17 are most likely to abuse inhalants. In a 2011 study by the University of Michigan, almost 15 percent of eighth graders surveyed said they had tried “huffing” one or more household chemicals.