Substance Abuse


Solvent abuse involves inhaling the fumes from domestic and industrial products creating a strong intoxication.

Traditionally referred to as 'glue sniffing', the vast majority of solvent abusers are between the ages of 11-16 and usually male. The most common method of inhaling solvents is by inhaling them from a bag which is placed over the face.

A feeling of strong intoxication kicks in almost immediately with some users experiencing hallucinations. The effects are short lived, resulting in the prospect of repeated abuse.

Methods of Inhalation
  1. Some are sniffed directly from the product into the mouth
  2. By putting the solvent into a paper or plastic bag and inhaling from this
  3. The solvent is put onto the clothes (Sleeve) and then inhaled from the cloth
  4. Putting the solvent in a bag and placing directly over the head.
Signs and Symptoms of Solvent abuse

Among the signs which have been found useful are:

  1. Drunkenness
  2. Hallucinations
  3. Erratic or violent behaviour
  4. Fixed stare, blurred or double vision
  5. Restlessness, tiredness and lack of energy
  6. Groups of teenagers congregating in out of the way places
  7. Tubes of glue, gas canisters, aerosols sprays etc. found in unusual places such as waste ground, derelict buildings or hidden in the home
  8. Smell of solvent on breath or traces of solvent on the cuffs of jackets, on lapels, handkerchiefs, rags or in crisp packets, plastic bags or bottles
  9. Spots, boils or a red ring around the mouth and nose (“Glue sniffer’s rash”)
  10. Persistent cough, running nose and eyes
  11. Abdominal Cramps
  12. Respiratory Distress
  13. Abnormal Heart Beat
Complications of Solvent Abuse

Death can result from: Toxic effect, Asphyxia, Injury due to intoxication, Aspiration of Vomit

Small doses of Volatile Substances produce the effects often produced by alcohol, but with greater exposure and higher doses solvents can have severe effects as listed below:

Drug Abuse

The use of a drug, but not for the purpose intended, or the excessive use of a drug. The types of drugs that people abuse can vary from over the counter medications e.g. cough medicines, prescription medications like painkillers and tranquilisers, and illegal drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.

Types of Drugs commonly used and their possible signs, symptoms and dangers:



High concentrations of O2, Calm and reassure, Assess Cardiac Rhythm On ECG Monitor, Be prepared to carry out BLS, Monitor Blood Glucose Level - Rectify with Glucagon or Hypostop if necessary

Secondary Survey

ASHICE (Consider)

Transport to Hospital 

Professional Handover 

Bookmark and Share