Solvent abuse

The first thing you need to know is that solvent abuse is not illegal. This is because many of the products that young people inhale are on sale over the counter as they have everyday legitimate uses around the home. But just because they are legal it doesn’t mean that they won’t harm you.

Abusing solvents is very dangerous and there is no safe way to inhale these chemicals. Regardless of whether you are sniffing for the first time or you have been sniffing for a while, the risks are very high. In fact, there are more deaths amongst young people from inhaling chemical substances than from all other illegal drugs.

Users sniff and breathe in a range of different products such as solvents, gases, aerosols, paint and paint strippers. Unlike with some illegal drug, solvents are not in themselves addictive but the user can become dependant on the feeling that the solvents give them.

Many people who abuse solvents do so because it is a way of escaping from their problems and forgetting about them for a short while.

The effects of solvent abuse

The short term affects that users experience begin almost immediately after inhaling solvents and can last up to 45 minutes. Common feelings can include an initial feeling of euphoria which is then followed by disorientation, blurred vision, dizziness, slurred speech, giddiness, blackouts, sickness and even hallucinations.

Once the ‘high’ is over users then have the after-effects, which are similar to that of a hangover with feelings of tiredness and lack of concentration.

The health risks

There are a lot of health risks attached to solvent abuse. Some of health problems are easy to spot but others are not so obvious and you may not know about them until it is too late.

The most noticeable sign that somebody is a solvent user can be the spots or a rash, which can develop around the mouth and nose and don’t look very nice.

Symptoms can include sickness, vomiting, severe headaches and blackouts. However, some of the more serious risks include fatal heart, kidney or liver problems and in the case of some long-term users, brain damage.


Who can help?

There are a number of different organisations who can give you information about the dangers of solvent abuse. Each one of these can also offer you the support and information that you may need to help yourself or others who may be solvent users:

Re-Solv provides advice and support to users and their families. Find out more about Re-Solv by visiting their website at

For straight talking information and advice on the effects and risks associated with solvent abuse or are worried about someone else, FRANK can help. Visit or phone 0800 77 66 00, minicom 0800 917 8765

Teen Life Check is a quick and easy online quiz for 12-15 year-olds that lets you check out your health and lifestyle. Your answers and results are confidential and you’ll get some useful advice on issues such as bullying, stress, home life, crime, healthy eating, exercise, safe sex, drugs, alcohol and more. Visit

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