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Disorders relating to the use of volatile substances 

Disorders relating to the use of volatile substances
Disorders relating to the use of volatile substances

Richard Ives

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date: 29 June 2022

Volatile substance abuse (VSA)—also known as ‘solvent abuse’ and ‘inhalant abuse’—is the deliberate inhalation of any of a range of products (see Table, to achieve intoxication. Amyl (pentyl) and isobutyl nitrites (‘poppers’) have different patterns of misuse, and are not discussed here. VSA has dose-related effects similar to those of other hypnosedatives. Small doses rapidly lead to ‘drunken’ behaviour similar to the effects of alcohol, and may induce delusions and hallucinations. Some heavy misusers inhale large quantities; 6 l of adhesive weekly have been reported. Long-term effects include listlessness, anorexia, and moodiness. The hair, breath, and clothing may smell of the substance(s) used, and empty product containers (e.g. glue cans, cigarette lighter refills, and aerosol spray cans), and bags used to inhale from, may be found. Being readily available, volatile substances are, along with alcohol and tobacco, the first intoxicating substances some children try. However, most VSA is experimental and does not lead to the use of other psychoactive substances; problematic misusers have other difficulties in their lives.

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