Recognising Solvent Abuse - VSA

What to look for

Physical Evidence
Some of the main signs apart from a chemical smell on the breath are similar to drunkenness eg. *slurred speech *unsteadiness *excessive giggling *wide and rapid mood swings *drowsy vacant glazed expression *rowdy or aggressive behaviour. Solvent Abuse - VSA can also cause *red sometimes sore or water eyes *rashes around the mouth or nose *runny nose *lack of motivation *secretive behaviour.

Please note: These signs and symptoms are not conclusive evidence of Solvent Abuse - VSA, as some signs could be confused with adolescence or common illnesses.  The only way of finding out for certain is to build a relationship with the person you are concerned about, observe them and then calmly discuss with them.

Incidental Evidence

Look for damaged cans or cans with teeth marks on the nozzle or valve, products being used at an unusual rate or found in unusual places around the home or workplace, chemical smells on clothing or towels and rags as just some examples.

When children and teenagers experiment with volatile substances it is often through curiosity or the desire to imitate a peer’s behaviour and it usually does not last long but there is a risk of death associated with first time use. Temptation can also arise because the products are legal, cheap and easily accessible in every home.                                                        

Encourangingly, the rates of Solvent Abuse - VSA have fallen amongst young people by around a third in the last decade. Cannabis and alcohol are the most common substances used, although volatile substances also remain an issue, particulary at younger ages.

The long term user may have health, social or emotional problems and sometimes uses their abuse as a form of escapism; their behaviour changes will include the failure to handle ordinary situations causing problems with friends or family.

Using an increasing amount of volatile substances to achieve their desired effect the chronic user has often alienated themselves from family and friends due to their excessive use and behavioural problems, leaving them feeling vulnerable and isolated.

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