Risks To Health

Effects - short and long term, dangers

Unpredictability 
There is no safe way to get 'high' through inhaling volatile substances - solvents.   

Anyone abusing volatile substances puts themselves at risk of death which can happen on first time use, or after frequent use. When mixing with other drugs including alcohol the risks may be increased.

Effects
The effects can vary from one person to another so it is difficult to predict the effects on the individual; a high can last anything from a few minutes to just over half an hour. Mild hangovers or headaches can occur after the immediate effects wear off.

Short and long term effects 
When they are inhaled, gases, solvents and aerosols have an almost immediate effect.  The substances, which are soluble in body fat, enter the blood stream directly from the lungs and they rapidly reach the brain and other organs.  They have a depressant effect on the user’s central nervous system; depression or aggressiveness are frequently mentioned as linked to excessive use. 

When high from Solvent Abuse, effects may include slurred speech, the inability to co-ordinate movements, euphoria, dizziness, lethargy. Nausea and vomiting are also common side effects during or shortly after use and users have reported suffering from sneezing, coughing, nose bleeds, tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

VSA can also cause altered perception, anaesthesia - loss of sensation and unconsciousness, disorientation, hallucinations and delusions.  

Anecdotal evidence

Although there is no published research to correlate it, both regular and long term users have reported suffering from slurred speech, slower reactions and other physical and mental health issues whilst they are using, which even when they stop using don’t go away; some users confirm that any side effects stop once they discontinue their Solvent Abuse - VSA.

Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome (SSDS)
The highly concentrated chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can induce irregular and rapid heart rhythms and lead to fatal heart failure within minutes of a session of prolonged sniffing.  This syndrome known as ‘sudden sniffing death’ is responsible for most Solvent Abuse - VSA deaths and can result from a single session of Solvent Abuse - VSA, by say an otherwise healthy person.  >

The direct toxic effect of inhaled volatile chemicals can cause the heart to beat irregularly and anything that might cause a sudden rush of adrenaline (like becoming excited or frightened or perhaps someone disturbing them) can stop the heart from pumping blood with death resulting in minutes.  Defibrillation - an electric shock to the heart to re-establish normal heart rhythms - needs to be carried out within around nine minutes, however this is by no means guaranteed to be successful.  

Death
By suffocation or asphyxiation (choking) from repeated inhalations that lead to high concentrations of inhaled fumes, which displace available oxygen in the lungs or from air being prevented from entering the lungs because the user may have been using a bag or mask over their nose and mouth.  

Poppers if swallowed can be fatal and new research suggests that in some cases inhaling poppers can also be responsible for causing permanent eye damage.

Convulsions or Seizures
From abnormal electrical discharges in the brain.

Coma
From the brain shutting down all but the most vital functions.

Choking
From inhalation of vomit after Solvent Abuse - VSA.

Fatal injury
From hallucinations, accidents - including motor vehicle fatalities whilst intoxicated.

Toxicity
Volatile substances are highly toxic to organs and chronic exposure can produce significant damage to the brain, optic nerve, inner ear, muscles, peripheral nerves, liver, kidneys, lung and bone marrow.  Some damage may be reversible but many disorders caused by repeated or prolonged abuse are irreversible.  

There are many reports of the effects of long-term exposure to toluene which was previously the main solvent in adhesives (causing long term brain, lung, liver and kidney damage), this is now banned from UK consumer products although still found in some industrial glues.

There is very little information about the long-term abuse of butane. Anectodtal evidence from users highlights a range of health issues including, slurred speech, slower reactions, problems with memory, tremors and shakes. Some say these symptoms disappear once they stop whilst others feel it has contributed to long term physical or mental health issues.

Pregnancy
Solvent Abuse - VSA during pregnancy may place infants and children at increased risk of developmental harm.  There are some reports of abnormalities in the newborns of mothers who chronically abuse solvents and subsequent developmental impairment in some of these children.  However there have been no well-controlled studies of the effects of prenatal exposure to volatile substances in humans, nor is it possible to link a particular chemical to a specific birth defect or developmental problem.

Nitrites
Whilst other volatile substances are used to alter mood, nitrites are used primarily as sexual enhancers.  Nitrites can be fatal when mixed with Viagra.  Some nitrites increase risks of cancer or some to retinal damage.

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