Solvent Abuse: The Facts

Get the info on volatile substances and how solvents are abused to get high. 

What are volatile substances?

They can be everyday products such as glue, cigarette lighter refills, aerosols, petrol and cleaning products that are breathed in on purpose to get a high.

What is solvent abuse?

Solvent abuse is the sniffing of any of these volatile substances.

All these products are completely safe if used for the purpose they were made for, but if ‘sniffed’ they can be deadly – even the first time.

Does this include nitrous oxide or laughing gas?

Yes. Nitrous oxide is inhaled through the mouth to get a feeling of euphoria (and often a fit of giggles) but can lead to hallucinations, sound distortions and painful headaches. 

What are the effects of solvent abuse?

The effects of sniffing any volatile substances can kick-in very quickly.  The scariest effect is hallucinating. This is where you can see things that aren't really there. Other effects include:

  • Being light-headed or dizzy
  • Vomiting
  • Being drowsy
  • Being clumsy
  • Feeling drunk and being aggressive

Some people inhale solvents with a plastic bag over their head which can lead to suffocation.

And if people sniff and become unconscious they can choke on their own vomit. 

Some solvents (such as an aerosols and lighter gas refills) push your heart to work too hard and can lead to heart failure, especially if the user is running around.

Users are also more prone to accidents because their senses are affected, which means taking them in risky places (like near canals) can be fatal. 

Combining naked flames and solvent use is also a dangerous combination as most solvents are highly flammable and if sniffed at the same time as smoking, or using a naked flame, can cause fires or may even explode.

Nitrous oxide use can cause unconsciousness or death from lack of oxygen. This occurs when the available oxygen for breathing is effectively pushed out by the nitrous oxide. And heavy, regular use can cause a vitamin B deficiency which can lead to serious nerve damage. 

Get more information and facts about nitrous oxide or laughing gas with Talk To Frank. 

Where to get help

If you want to get more information about solvent abuse and "sniffing" then contact Re-Solv. They have a website where you can learn more about solvent abuse and they also have a helpline if you want to talk to someone about any concerns or questions you have.

Re-Solv National Helpline: 01785 810 762

Re-Solv Website