Solvents - Drug Addiction

These are gases or chemical based vapours which are designed for commercial use but are misused by people who enjoy the ‘high’ that these substances give them.

They are cheap to buy, widely available and legal so are open to abuse.

What are solvents?

These include glues, gases, aerosols, paint thinners and dry cleaning fluids.

These are household products which mean that they are legal to buy, inexpensive and easy to use, and this makes them popular with young people and adults. Even children as young as ten use these products, e.g. glue.

It is very hard to prevent their misuse as they are available at home or in the workplace.

What do solvents look like?

These are household products which are available as aerosols, bottles, tins, tubes etc. This is one of the major problems with solvents in that this ubiquity means that they are not viewed as illegal drugs. But they are as dangerous as any illegal drugs.

How are solvents used?

They can be inhaled, sniffed or squirted into the throat. A popular use is to pour a tin of glue into a cloth and sniff that. Another method is to pour a solvent into a plastic bag and then pull this bag over the head to inhale the fumes.

What is its street name?

These are household products so will be known by the name of that product. They may also be known by the following names:

  • Thinners
  • Sniff
  • Gas
  • Glue

Who uses solvents?

Solvents are very popular with children and young people. This is mainly due to their easy availability and cost. The average age of users is between 10 and 16 although some people carry on until their twenties.

How much does it cost?

You can buy a solvent for around a couple of pounds (£).

What are the effects of solvents

These are ingested via the lungs and travel quickly to the brain. This causes an instant rush which leaves the user in a euphoric state and they may also experience hallucinations.

People report that they feel dizzy, giggly, light headed or ‘drunk’ after inhaling these substances. Other sensations include increased confidence, alertness and exhilaration.

This is an instant rush so users will inhale more than once to maintain this feeling.

Physical effects include nausea, dizziness, poor reflexes, coughing and blurred vision.

Altered perceptions and hallucinations are common.

Users state that the comedown is very similar to a hangover.

Is it easy to become addicted to solvents?

Addiction isn’t a problem but it is possible to build up a tolerance to solvents which also results in psychological dependency. This can start from as little as three days continual usage although it tends to occur in only a small minority of users.

It is possible to experience cravings if you stop using solvents which include loss of appetite, nausea, anxiety and depression.

What are the risks of solvents?

There are risks with solvent abuse which include:

  • Suffocation if solvents are inhaled via a plastic bag over the head. This is also a risk if a gas product is squirted into the throat as it causes it to swell which impeded breathing.
  • Indulging in impulsive or dangerous actions due to the intoxicating effects.
  • Long term use can damage the brain, liver or kidneys.
  • Can cause heart problems which may be fatal - even the first time it is used.
  • Rash around the nose and mouth
  • Tremors and a lack of co-ordination
  • Tiredness
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive thirst
  • Cognitive impairment e.g. unable to think clearly, focus or remember something.

Excessive doses can lead to coma and even death.


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