Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Solvent abuse risks 'being ignored'

Northern Ireland - Media report

Solvent abuse is being overshadowed by the high-profile issues of under-age drinking and illegal drugs, the Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast has warned.

The SDLP's Pat Convery said he was deeply concerned by new figures revealing that the number of deaths from solvent abuse in Northern Ireland has increased five-fold in just one year.

Earlier this week, the Health Promotion Agency said Volatile Substance Abuse (VSA) deaths here had jumped from one death in 2002 to five in 2003, despite dropping across the UK. Mr Convery said young people falling into harmful behaviour could not be left to their own devices.

"Solvent abuse highlights the whole issue of the vulnerability of young people, because it tends to peak at 13-14 years of age but it often begins at the age of 10 or 11," he said.
"But people working in the area are convinced that it is getting insufficient attention because it is overshadowed by the high-profile issues of under-age drinking and illegal drugs."
A good society has to protect its vulnerable members, Mr Convery warned. "We cannot just leave them to their own devices at any age just because they have fallen into behaviour which harms them.

"We cannot just move problems on or push them back out on to the streets. We must certainly intervene to save the lives of young children."

Source: Belfast Telegraph, 22/07/2005

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Department of Health release a new Framework for VSA

England - Policy

The Department of Health released a new Framework for Volatile Substance Abuse targeted at children and young people on the 20th July. The document called ‘Out of Sight?..................not out of mind’ outlines a number of key recommendations that the government intends to take forward in partnership with key stakeholders at local, regional and national level.

The framework states that its principal aim is to ensure that the number of deaths arising from VSA continues to fall. The framework recognises that VSA is a complex issue but it has focused action on those few areas which the Department believes will have the greatest impact. The principle actions are targeted at work with children and young people and on butane gas lighter refills, the product responsible for most of the VSA deaths.

The framework aims to co-ordinate activity and to develop a consensus on a way forward in reducing the deaths and harm associated with VSA. This will involve all the key stakeholders including all government departments, non-government organisations, voluntary sector, industry, retailers, Trading Standards Departments, children and young people, parents, carers, families, practitioners, policy makers and the wider community working together in partnership.

The stated aims of the VSA Framework are to:
  • Provide effective education on VSA to all children and young people, including the most disadvantaged
  • Povide effective targeted interventions for children and young people abusing or at risk of abusing volatile substances
  • Reduce the availability and accessibility of volatile substances, with a focus on butane gas lighter refills
  • Build the capacity of parents, carers and practitioners to identify and work effectively with children and young people who are abusing or at risk of abusing volatile substances
    Increase the evidence base with regard to what works in reducing deaths and harm from VSA

Click here to link to a full copy of the document or go to http://www.dh.gov.uk/assetRoot/04/11/56/05/04115605.pdf

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Latest VSA mortality figures

UK - Research

A report released today by the Division of Community Health Sciences at St George’s, University of London, reveals that in 2003 there were 51 deaths in the UK associated with volatile substance abuse. This is the lowest annual total recorded since 1983. The report “Trends in Death Associated with Abuse of Volatile Substances 1971-2003”, which was prepared for the Department of Health, describes trends in death associated with the abuse of gas fuels, aerosols, glues and other solvent based products.

In 2003, butane from all sources, predominantly in the form of cigarette lighter refills accounted for 40 of the 51 deaths. Five of the adult deaths were associated with the anaesthetic agents isoflurane and sevoflurane.

Of the nine volatile substance abuse deaths in under-18 year olds in 2003, six were associated with butane cigarette lighter refills, the sale of which to under-18s is prohibited by legislation. In 2002, there were 24 deaths in under 18 year olds, of which 15 were associated with butane cigarette lighter refills.

Deaths were generally sudden and in 2003 were three times more common in males than females. For both adults and children volatile substance abuse leading to death usually took place in the home.


Anyone with concerns about volatile substance abuse can contact Re-Solv’s free helpline on 0808 800 2345 from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday,
or at the website: www.re-solv.org

The report is also available on the internet at
(NOTE: Report 18 will be live from 0900 on Wednesday 20 July 2005. Until then Report 17 for the deaths in 2002 is on this site)

Deaths from Volatile Substance Abuse in 2003 fell to 51,

UK - Press Release

Re-Solv welcomes the publication of the encouraging 2003 annual report by the Division of Community Health Sciences at St George’s, University of London.

The considerable fall in deaths from VSA in the year that Re-Solv supplied a copy of the awareness video ‘A Loaded Gun’ and the Teachers Pack to every secondary school in the UK is not a coincidence. St George’s Report actually says: “There has been a continuing progress of health education, along with personal and social education in schools, addressing the issue of VSA”.

Re-Solv believes the prevention measure needs still stating clearly that VSA can kill first time. Any child’s death is one too many as we again see the death of a seven year old. We regret that it seems from our press cuttings that the figures will rise again in 2004.

Re-Solv also welcomes the publication of the Government’s VSA Framework, which has been in preparation for over three years. We welcome the consultation we have had over the three years of production with the Department of Heath civil servants. We welcome the emphasis on priority for:

1. Better education
2. Dealing with VSA effectively locally
3. Minimising the opportunity for abuse
4. Research

Re-Solv is urging the Government to make sufficient funding available because to achieve success the framework outlined today will cost money.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

All Wales Awareness Campaign


The parents of a teenage girl, Danielle Taylor, aged 16, who died after sniffing air freshener for the first time have backed a new campaign on the dangers of solvent abuse.

Schools throughout Wales are receiving posters and leaflets to highlight the fact that sniffing substances kills more young people than all illegal drugs combined.

Her father Bryn said: "No parent should have to go through the loss of a child, especially over something so stupid. It's still not real," said Mr Taylor. "We still expect Danielle to be there."

The four Welsh police forces and the charity Re-Solv (the Society for the Prevention of Solvent and Volatile Substance Abuse) hope to raise awareness among young people of the risks.

Dewi Roberts, a drug reduction officer, said "I was unaware that misusing solvents can kill you on the first occasion and that's a message that a lot of people weren't aware of. It's really important that we tell the community as a whole - young people, parents, schools - of the danger of solvent misuse and that one single experimentation can kill you."

The campaign was launched at the Welsh assembly in Cardiff with the backing of trading standards , who inform retailers about legislation and health risks involved in selling restricted goods to the young.

Welsh Social Justice Minister Edwina Hart said substance abuse in the UK was the highest in the European Union. "This type of substance misuse is a particular problem among younger and more vulnerable children."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Neonatal withdrawal from maternal volatile substance abuse


M Tenenbein, OG Casiro, MM Seshia and VD Debooy Department of Pediatrics, University of Manitoba.

A study to determine whether neonates born to mothers who are volatile substance abusers are at risk for an abstinence syndrome suggested that there is an identifiable neonatal volatile substance abuse abstinence syndrome. The characteristic chemical odour in the neonate or mother is a marker for its occurrence, and phenobarbital treatment seems to be effective. The Finnegan Scoring System seems to be useful for grading its severity.

Funding to tackle VSA in Australia


The Government has allocated $10 million over five years to tackle volatile substance abuse. Minister for Family and Community Services Marion Scrymgour said a key focus will be petrol sniffing which has become a "scourge of our community ". "It is destroying our children,debilitating Indigenous communities and leading to crime and anti-social behaviour in our towns," she said. A new Volatile Substance Abuse Prevention Bill will support the many projects communities have developed to deal with petrol sniffing. It also contains initiatives that support communities and expand current options for dealing with abuse,such as:
  • giving police and communities the power to seize inhalants such as petrol,glue and paint when they are being abused
  • giving police and communities the power to apprehend people under the influence of volatile substances and to take them to a place of safety
  • giving courts the capacity to order compulsory attendance at treatment programs for substance abusers
  • strengthening the law to combat the illegal supply of substances.

Clinical, socio-demographic, neurophysiological and neuropsychiatric evaluation of children with volatile substance addiction.


Uzun N, Kendirli Y.

Uzun N, Kendirli Y, Istanbul University Cerrahpasa Medical School

In this study, socio-demographic characteristics were questioned in 12 children with a mean age of 15 years and a duration of toluene abuse for a mean of 2.3 years, and the clinical characteristics of central and peripheral nervous system damage caused by volatile substances, particularly by toluene were analysed, and probable neurological disorders were investigated by means of neurophysiological and neuropsychological tests. All tests were compared with a control group.

Fifty-eight percent of the children included in the study had pathological findings in the neurological examination. There was pyramidal involvement in 25% and peripheral nerve involvement in 33.3% of the cases. Evaluation of the cognitive functions revealed 33.3% pathology in the 'Short Test of Mental Status' which assesses functions of orientation, attention, learning, arithmetic calculation, abstraction, information, construction and recall. Sensorial polyneuropathy was found in 33.3% of the cases in nerve conduction studies. Somatosensory-evoked potentials revealed pathology in 16.7% of the cases and brainstem-evoked potentials in 50% of the cases. No pathology was observed in electroencephalography and visual-evoked potentials.

In our study, neurophysiological and neuropsychiatric tests revealed that toluene causes slow progressive, clinical and subclinical central and peripheral nerve damage. In Turkey, because of cheapness, easy availability and legal use of volatile substances, the clinical extent of systemic and neurological toxicity of volatile substance abuse is increasing. Abuse of volatile substances, a currently increasing social issue, may create important physical problems which can be permanent.

Early onset inhalant use and risk for opiate initiation by young adulthood


Carla L. Storr, Ryan Westergaard and James C. Anthony

In this study, we estimate a hypothesized link from early onset inhalant use to later use of opiates by young adulthood, with data from an epidemiological sample of 2311 first graders who entered an urban mid-Atlantic public school system in 1985 or 1986 (49.8% male; 67.1% ethnic minority), and who were studied longitudinally to young adulthood. An estimated 9% had initiated inhalant use before the age of 14 and at follow-up in young adulthood an estimated 3% (n = 66) of the sample had tried opiates at least once. Youth who used inhalants prior to age 14 were twice as likely to initiate opiate use, as compared to those who had never tried (relative risk 2.2; 95% CI = 1.4, 3.3). Statistical adjustment for other covariates attenuated but did not dissolve this relationship. These findings help confirm previously reported evidence that the use of inhalants might be an early marker of vulnerability for future involvement with illegal drugs such as heroin, but an exploratory analysis suggests that there may be no direct inhalants–opiate link once a general early onset susceptibility trait is taken into account.

NIDA reports increase in inhalant prevalence


The results of the 2004 Monitoring the Future Study showed that annual use of inhalants by 8th grade students has increased to 9.6 percent, up from 7.7 percent just two years ago. The survey is conducted annually by the National Institute of Drug Abuse to assess drug use among 8th, 10th and 12th grade students.

The latest information from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which tracks drug-related emergency department admissions, showed an increase of 187 percent of inhalant mentions from 2001 to 2002. The total number of new inhalant users in 2002 was about one million Americans, with 78 percent of them under the age of 18.

Solve-it VSA conference


SOLVE IT's third National conference on VSA ‘Confronting Forgotten Substances' is on 18th . November at the Thistle Hotel, Marble Arch, London.

The event is free to all delegates, and is suited to all those who work or come into contact with children and young people, work in the fields of Education, health, crime and community safety, addictions and mental health.

This year there will be presentations from Dr. John Ramsey of St. Georges' Hospital Medical School on the National VSA trends, Dr. Dan Harris on VSA and the medical profession, Kerry Maddock on VSA outreach work, Sharon Sawyers on the work of Trading Standards and the Wellingborough Prison Community Project on the link between VSA and illegal drug use.
Seminars are planned on VSA and the Industry, VSA education, and VSA and the media.

Places are being allocated on a first come first served basis. For further information contact Steve Lambert at SOLVE IT on 01536 510010 or e mail mailto:mandingo_uk@yahoo.co.uk?subject=Enquiry .

Friday, July 01, 2005

Cigarette lighters


Re-Solv has received increasing numbers of reports about the use of cigarette lighters. The reports frequently mention that the tops of the lighters have been damaged, presumably so that the gas escapes faster.

Each lighter contains perhaps 5ml of butane compared to 200ml in the average gas lighter refill and so it is more likely to be associated with young people experimenting than long term users. Cigarette lighters do not come under the “Cigarette Gas Lighter Refill (Safety) Regulations 1999” and so they are probably more available to young people who can purchase them from markets at five for a pound.
The St Georges Mortality figures state that in 2001 there was evidence that three deaths were associated with disposable cigarette lighters containing butane.

Mechanism of death


There is a common misconception that VSA deaths result from the freezing of the airways or of the vagal nerve in the neck. It is now believed that this is an unlikely cause of death.

Our current understanding is that the most probable cause of sudden sniffing deaths is the sensitisation of the heart muscle to adrenalin. When a young person becomes excited or frightened their body releases adrenalin, which causes cardiac arrhythmia, a heart rhythm disturbance, which is fatal unless treated very quickly with a defibrillator.

This information has important implications for people who encounter solvent users to treat the situation as calmly as possible.

Ritalin and volatile substances


The Ohio Early Alert raised a concern about the possible interaction of Ritalin and volatile substances. There were apparently 254,000 prescriptions for it in 2002 in the UK.

“I would be primarily and most concerned about a potential fatal interaction whereas the Ritalin having "sympathomimetic" effect or adrenalin like effect could enhance the possibility of Sudden Sniffing Death in the individual huffing the correction fluid.” There is a risk of sudden death with every episode of inhalant use. It could happen on the first incident, or any one after. Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome occurs when the inhaled substance sensitized the heart muscle to the body’s own “adrenaline” leading to a fatal heart rhythm disturbance, Earl Siegel, Pharm.D.,Co-Director, Drug & Poison Information Center, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

New US website


The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, a US based charity, with which Re-Solv has close links, has launched its new web site.


Typical packaging of solvent and volatile substance abuse products has been adopted to deliver the ‘no nonsense’ message of the potential deadliness in misusing solvent and volatile substances.

This concept aims to trigger a safety message, particularly to adults storing these products.