Nov 09, 2006
Solvent abuse among teenagers has risen sharply, compared to only minor changes in the level of cannabis use.
Children are now seven times more likely to abuse solvents than ten years ago, according to new research.
The research, by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), shows how solvent abuse in young teenagers has risen from 28,000 to 168,000 last year, in comparison to only minor increases in cannabis use.
Glue-sniffing, also known as volatile substance abuse (VSA) is often associated with crime.
"Although the deaths have decreased, crime surrounding VSA has increased," said Warren Hawksley, director of charity Re-Solv.
"As the chemicals used are so cheap, there isn't usually the problem of theft associated with other drug abuse. However, murder and arson related to solvent abuse has increased."
The IPPR report, Freedom's Orphans: Raising Youth in a Changing World, claims that the development of social skills and strong adult role models are crucial in keeping kids off drugs, drink and cigarettes.
Olive Forsyth of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) agrees that the issue can be dealt with through paying attention to the child but added that this was to an extent problematic.
"It is difficult for teachers because so much of the activity happens outside school hours," she said.
"Schools are not isolated from society in what happens on the street and can try to encourage the child to say no and not be hit by peer pressure."
The IPPR report notes the role of peer pressure and draws upon evidence from American high schools which have different hierarchies of cliques: of athletes, druggies, "eggheads"and so on.
Where the "eggheads" secure a place high up the hierarchy, it was found that children do better academically. Where "druggies" reach the top they do less well, indicating the role of peer effects in setting norms of behaviour.
This was repeated in research done with 300 children in the Netherlands which is quoted in FirstNews, a weekly paper for school-aged children.
The charity Solve It was founded by Barbara Skinner MBE in 1989 a year after her son died from solvent abuse. She claims that there are around 50 products around the home that can be abused.
She considered herself a responsible parent and, as a qualified nurse, was able to tell her children about the dangers of smoking, alcohol, and illegal drugs: "However, my knowledge of VSA was non existent, this type of substance abuse was not discussed," she said.
"It's forgotten about in the complexities of illegal drugs."
The effects of VSA are similar to being drunk but wears off after about half an hour. It is also less chemically addictive than alcohol but, as with all drugs, users can become psychologically dependent.
The reports shows that the numbers of teenagers drinking has shown little change since the late 1980s but that for those who do drink, consumption levels are steadily increasing and children are starting to drink earlier, particularly at younger ages.
Mr Hawksley, Mrs Skinner and Julia Margo, one of the authors of the report, all state that education is the key to diminishing this rising tragedy and that government action has a large part to play.
Article by Damian Rice
Epoch Times London