Physical Effects of Solvents
The effects experienced from solvent abuse vary greatly depending on the individual, the type of product used, and the amount taken.
What Are Solvents?Sometimes referred to as ‘glue sniffing’ or more correctly ‘volatile substance abuse’, this type of addiction describes the repeated inhalation of substances such as aerosols (particularly deodorants), glues, lighter fuel, paints, paint thinners, some cleaning agents, nail varnishes and removers.
These products are found in most households and are not thought of as particularly dangerous in their intended capacity, and it’s these factors that allow users to gain access to them without much effort or dishonesty.
The products mentioned all emit vapours that are inhaled deep into the lungs via the nose or mouth using a bag, a soaked piece of material or by directly inhaling the product from the packaging it’s sold in.
Physical EffectsThe initial effects felt from inhaling a volatile substance are increased confidence, mind-alteration and a general feeling of intoxication.
The most severe effect of solvent abuse is death. This can occur for a number of reasons and can happen following a singular dose and to a first-timer.
Causes of DeathAs the effects of inhaling solvents can cause intoxication of a similar nature to alcohol, inhibitions are lowered and confidence can grow. This causes users to be more reckless and take risks leading to accidents, some fatal.
Suffocation can occur if other paraphernalia is used such as polythene or bags. The user can inhale it as they reach their ‘high’ or pass out with their face embedded in the plastic.
Suffocation can also be the result of squirting the contents of an aerosol can directly into the mouth as the airway can freeze and prevent the person from breathing properly.
This level of intoxication can cause the individual to vomit, sometimes if the person is losing consciousness or is drowsy, they can choke to death.
The effects of some substances, particularly lighter fuel, can cause arrhythmias of the heart (irregular beating), and can lead to cardiac arrest.
Other EffectsSlurred speech, memory loss, being unstable on their feet and headaches are all common side-effects of volatile substance abuse and can easily be confused for drunkenness.
An obvious sign of ongoing solvent abuse is a very noticeable rash and spots around the nose and mouth; this can become permanent in long-term users.
Long-term use can also lead to liver, kidney, heart and brain damage, some of which can be irreversible. Also seen in long-term users is depression due to the substances effects on the central nervous system, involuntary muscular movements and problems with fertility.
Nausea, vomiting and dizziness are all often felt by inexperienced users.
Hallucinations have been reported by some users, and these can be either euphoric experiences or be quite frightening.Most ‘hits’ carry an immediate high lasting a few minutes, with lasting effects of up to 45 minutes, when another fix is needed, this leads to a dependency and tolerance that will require the user to inhale larger and more frequent doses.
As with many addictions, mood swings, irritability, changes in appetite and sleep pattern and aggression are all likely to occur in long-term and fully addicted people.