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A-Z of Drugs

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A-Z of drugs

 of Drugs

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Solvents

Also known as:

Sniffing, huffing, biffing and doing gas.

Solvents and the law

It is not illegal to possess solvents as they are found all around the home.   However under the Substance (Supply) Act 1985 it is illegal to sell a volatile substance to anyone under the age of 18 if they believe it will be used to cause intoxication.

What are solvents?

Solvents can be found in hundreds of industrial and household products that release intoxicating fumes.   It is known as 'glue sniffing' although abusers do not just sniff glue. They can abuse any products that contain butane or propane gas, trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene.  

What do they look like?

Solvents can be found in the form of gas refills and lighters, air fresheners, correction fluid, aerosols, paint and thinners.

How are they used?

These can be inhaled through the mouth or nose either directly, from sniffing a rag or inhaling inside a plastic bag.   Aerosols can also be squirted directly into the mouth and throat.   Solvent abuse is common among 12-15 year olds as it is a cheap way to 'get out of your head'.  

What are the effects?

The effects of solvent abuse starts with a head rush and users have blurred vision, dizziness, slurred speech, drowsiness and experience hallucinations.   Loss of physical co-ordination is common and things can appear in slow motion.   Huffing can sometimes cause short blackouts and users may feel sick and vomit.

After the effects wear off users feel tired and may experience hangover like feelings.

When do the effects start and how long do they last?

The effects are similar to alcohol and start immediately after inhalation as the vapours are quickly absorbed through the lungs and reach the brain in a matter of seconds.   The effects can last between 15 and 45 minutes.

What are the risks?

Casual use can cause headaches and rashes or spots can appear around the mouth.   Users can also suffer weight loss and depression but these risks can disappear if the sniffing stops.   However, users run the risk of heart failure, especially if they are running around, as some solvents (cleaning fluid and aerosols) sensitise the heart to exertion.

Accidental death or injury can occur through suffocation if sniffers place the bag over their heads or spray aerosols directly into their mouth as this action freezes the airways.   Risks are greatly increased if they are sniffing in unsafe environments such as by a road, on a roof or by water.   Users face the risk of chocking on their own vomit if they blackout whilst sniffing.

Regular use may lead to people becoming very tired and forgetful and lack concentration and the longer term effects of solvent abuse can include brain damage and damage to the heart, liver and kidneys.

Is it addictive?

With regular use tolerance can develop meaning that you need to use more to get the same effect.   Solvent abuse is not psychically addictive, however psychological dependence can happen as young people may rely on solvent abuse to deal with their unhappiness or problems.

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Stoke-on-Trent Drug and Alcohol Action Team, First Floor, Civic Centre, Glebe St, Stoke on Trent, ST4 1WR
Tel: 01782 235708 . Fax: 01782 235003 . E-mail: drugactionteam@stoke.gov.uk