Solving the Problem

Key Fact

What is Volatile Substance Abuse (VSA)?

When solvents and volatile substances, which are drugs, are inhaled through the mouth or nose deliberately for the sole purpose of getting intoxicated.

Top Tips


  • Do not experiment with solvents and VS as they are dangerous chemicals that can adversely affect your health and well being.
  • Volatile substances are chemicals that evaporate at room temperature and emit a vapour. They include petrol, butane gas, and aerosols. The vapours can be dangerous, so always store them in a safe place.
  • Always store solvents out of reach of younger brothers and sisters.
  • If you know someone who misuses solvents or VS don’t be judgemental; offer support and understanding and encourage them to seek professional advice.
  • Ring Dan 24/7. They can give you confidential information and advice over the phone. It's free, and it's open 24 hours a day.

Things to Make You Think!

PC Jones says:

  • VS are a powerful hallucinogenic, which means when sniffed, young people can put themselves at risk. This may lead to tragic accidents.
  • VSA can in any form cause instant death at any time. This is known as sudden sniffing death syndrome.
  • VSA kills more children and young people aged between 10-16 than all illegal drugs put together.
  • On average one death a week occurs in the UK from ‘sniffing’ solvents. The most common age of death is between 15 and 16.


Your school police officer will help you learn

  • the dangers of volatile substance misuse,
  • that actions have consequences, and
  • where to access help, support and advice.

PC Davis’s Advice

Question and Answer

Question: What is the law in relation to Volatile Substances (VS)?

It is an offence to supply or offer to supply Volatile Substances to any one under 18 years of age or someone acting for them.

This law was brought in because of young people harming themselves through solvent abuse.

Question: Why is abusing VS so dangerous?
Answer: Volatile substances are depressants. They slow the nervous system down and can cause unconsciousness, death, suffocation, and choking on vomit. They can lead to fatal accidents because they are highly flammable, and because of accidents when people are hallucinating.
Question: Where can I go for help locally?
Answer: Information on local support agencies can be found in the teacher section of the Schoolbeat website under the heading helplines.

For help about drugs, phone Dan 24/7 on

0808 808 2234

Calls are free from most landlines.

Calls from mobiles may be charged depending on your network.

Drink Line provides confidential information and advice about alcohol-related problems and can refer you to a local agency. You can call them on

0800 917 8282

Calls are free from most landlines.

Calls from mobiles may be charged depending on your network.