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Glue, Gas, thinners, volatile substances


Solvents are substances that are inhaled to get high. They include gas lighter refills, aerosols containing hairspray, deodorants and air fresheners, tins or tubes of glue, some paints, thinners and correcting fluids, cleaning fluids, surgical spirit, dry-cleaning fluids and petroleum products.

Solvents are usually sniffed from a cloth, a sleeve or a plastic bag. Gas products can be squirted directly into the back of the throat however this makes it difficult to control the dose and also run the danger of suffocation.

The Effects

Inhaling solvents causes the drug to take effect very rapidly resulting in a euphoric 'rush'  which can last 1-45 minutes and has a similar effect to alcohol. Users can feel uninhibited, euphoric, dizzy and unsteady on their feet. Depending on what's being inhaled, hallucinations can occur which may last up to 45 minutes.

The hit is quite short so users tend to repeat the dose to keep the feeling going. Users can develop 'sniffers rash', memory impairment and loss of concentration. Long term heavy use (10 years or more) may lead to permanent brain damage. Liver and kidney damage have also been reported.

There is no evidence that inhaling solvents can make a user physically dependent although a tolerance can build up within 2-3 days of continual use. It is however possible to become psychologically dependent.

Harm Reduction

  • Squirting gas or aerosol products down the throat is a particularly dangerous way of taking the drug. It can make your throat swell so you can't breathe and slows down your heart. It is safer to use a cloth.
  • Don't use plastic bags to inhale the fumes as this can increase the risk of suffocation.
  • Avoid sniffing in isolated or dangerous places and avoid exertion or fright after sniffing.

The Law

Under Scottish law you can be prosecuted for 'recklessly' selling substances to any age group if you suspect they're going to inhale them.

Since October 1999, the law makes it an offence to supply gas lighter refills to anyone under the age of 18. This law applies to the whole of the UK.

For more in depth information on this substance you can check out one of the worlds best drug websites: www.erowid.org