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Spray can


Whether it's glue or paint thinner, solvents have similar effects and similar risks. Here's what you need to know.

Solvents can be found in household items such as lighter gas refills, fuel canisters, aerosol cans (for example: hairspray, deodorants or air fresheners), tins or tubes of glue, paints, thinners and correcting fluids. The vapours are sniffed or breathed into the lungs.

What are the effects of taking solvents?

  • The experience of solvent inhalation is like being intensely drunk for a short period of time
  • Breathing and heart rate are depressed, and feeling of unreality kicks in
  • Users may feel thick-headed, dizzy, giggly, and dreamy
  • Some feel nauseous and may vomit. With larger doses, users may hallucinate;
  • The effects last between 15 to 45 minutes
  • Headaches or feelings of drowsiness are common after-effects.

What are the risks of taking solvents?

  • Abusing gases, aerosols or glue can kill, even on the first go
  • Sniffing solvents reduces breathing and heart rate and can cause damage to the nasal membrane
  • Spraying solvents down the throat may lead to instant death
  • Users risk suffocation if inhaling solvents from a plastic bag over the head
  • Users (when high) are more prone to accidents because their senses are affected
  • Long-term abuse can damage the brain, liver and kidneys
  • Repeated use of leaded petrol can cause lead poisoning
  • Sniffing gases, glues, or aerosols kills one person every week.

Solvents and the law:

It is illegal to supply solvents to persons under the age of 18 if the retailer knows or suspects the product is intended for abuse.

If you're planning to get high on solvents:

  • Accidental death or injury can happen - steer clear of unsafe environments such as a canal or river bank, on a roof or near a busy road or train line.
  • Sniffing to the point of becoming unconscious also risks death through choking on vomit. Try to be around people who are straight and can help if things go wrong.
  • Avoid any method of use that obstructs breathing (such as sniffing with a plastic bag over the head) as death from suffocation may result.

Updated: 23/02/2010

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