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Gases, glues and aerosols


What are gases, glues and aerosols?

Gases, glues and aerosols are powerful chemicals also known as solvents or volatile substances. The gases which are used for abuse usually come from lighter gas refills and petrol. Glues are from normal tins or tubes of the substance and aerosols are from regular cans of hairspray, deodorants and air fresheners. Paints, nail polish and correcting fluids may also be used for abuse.

How are gases, glues and aerosols taken for abuse?

These solvents are usually taken by the fumes from the product being sniffed or breathed into the lungs from a cloth or a sleeve. Solvents can also be sprayed directly into the mouth or nose.

What are the effects of these solvents?

People often feel as if they are drunk and ‘on a high’, laughing, talking and giggling a lot. They feel like they can do things that they normally wouldn’t, because of being too scared or shy. Some users see things that aren’t there, they hallucinate and so are more likely to be involved in or cause an accident. This is especially the case if the abuse takes place near river banks, train lines or busy roads.

The user can feel dizzy, sick or drowsy during or after the solvent has been taken. People can also lose control of their balance and stagger and fall about as if they were drunk. The effects disappear after 15-45 minutes.

Sniffing and then putting a paper bag over your head can make it hard for you to breathe and lead to suffocation. There is also a chance that you could pass out and choke on your own vomit.

The effects of solvents are unpredictable and users can die suddenly from heart failure, even if it’s their first time use. Many young people die each year from sniffing solvents.

What are the long-term risks of using solvents?

If a person inhales regularly their memory may be affected, they can feel very tired and depressed. As a result the user can find it very hard to concentrate.

If the substance is squirted down the throat, it can cause the body to produce a fluid that floods the lungs and this can be fatal. Long-term abuse may damage the liver, brain and kidneys.

What is the legal status of solvents?

Solvents are legal and available in many shops. However, it is illegal for shopkeepers to sell these products to under 18’s or to people acting for them, if they suspect the product is intended for abuse.