Forms and Appearance
There is a huge range of solvent products which can be abused, and they are found in almost every home.
Liquid petroleum gases (LPGs) – (e.g. butane, propane) – contained in aerosols
- camping gas cylinders
- cigarette lighter gas refills
Liquid solvents – (e.g. benzene, acetone, carbon tetrachloride)
- fire extinguisher fluid
- document correction fluid and thinner
- certain types of paint and paint remover
- nail polish and nail polish remover
Solvent-based glues – (containing substances such as toluene and hexane) – used to glue laminates, vinyl floor tiles, wood and plastic. They include modelling glues used making plastic model aeroplanes etc.
Methods of Use
LPGs are sprayed directly into the mouth and inhaled deeply. Liquid solvents and solvent glues are usually poured into a plastic bag which is put over the user’s mouth and nose, and inhaled (‘sniffed’); or inhaled from a rag, handkerchief, the collar or cuffs, or a soft drink can.
Effects of Use
Deeply inhaling solvent fumes will cause intense intoxication in a very short time – within a matter of seconds if they are a new user.
Immediate effects include:
- flushed face
- slurred speech
- balance difficulties
- excitability, include uncontrolled laughing or tears
If the user continues to inhale, they may have auditory and visual hallucinations.
There is a very real danger of sudden death caused by over-stimulation of the heart; or asphyxiation caused by swelling of the throat tissues or inhaling vomit.
Users may also put themselves in dangerous situations while intoxicated or hallucinating, causing injury or death.
Long Term Repeated use of solvents can lead to:
- marked personality changes such as mood swings;
- loss of short-term memory;
- difficulty concentrating;
- speech and balance problems.
Tolerance and Dependence
Tolerance develops fairly quickly with repeated use.
There is little evidence of physical dependence developing, but many long-term users develop a powerful psychological dependence. They rely on the effects to cope with life, or to add excitement. Many long-term users become heavy alcohol or drug users.
No physical problems occur if solvent use is stopped. However, the user may feel anxious or uncertain.
Sudden death can occur when very low levels of solvents are inhaled. The risk is not necessarily related to the amount.