Friday, July 01, 2005

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.