Alert on deadly 'sniffing'

8th December 2000 at 00:00
MORE TEENAGERS die from "sniffing" substances than they do from using cocaine and ecstasy, a new guide for teachers and youth workers points out.

Ten young Scots died in 1998 from misusing household products, and one in five say they have tried what is now termed volatile substance abuse or VSA. Most only try it once or twice but it is a "serious and life-threatening" form of abuse that is often overlooked, according to the booklet, which is backed by local and health authorities and the Scottish Drugs Forum.

The most common age for experimenting is 13 and 14, particularly among young people from disadvantaged communities, often labelled by peers as "saddoes".

They tend to inhale lighter fuel refills, certain kinds of glue and aerosol sprays, including deodorants, hairsprays and air fresheners. Most have multiple problems.

The authors say young people experimentout of curiosity and boredom and to get a "high". "Younger teenagers often try 'sniffing' when they do not have access to alcohol or illegal drugs. Volatile substances are easily available and provide cheap intoxication," they conclude.

Researchers found professionals involved with young people often were afraid to mention VSA in case they put the idea into their heads. But they did not feel the same about illegal drugs. Studies show young people know about solvents.

The authors add: "Education about VSA needs to be integrated into teaching about other substances - illegal drugs, alcohol, tobacco and medicines. But this should not be an excuse for generalisations that enable teachers to avoid dealing with VSA specifically."

Volatile Substance Abuse - guidance for professionals is being distributed through health boards, local authorities and drug agencies.

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