Organic Solvents

Organic solvents, including substances like petrol, thinners and glue, are common in household and industrial products such as paint thinners, glues, cleaning agents and varnishes. Inhaling or ingesting these solvents allows them to rapidly enter the bloodstream affecting the central nervous system and resulting in euphoria, excitement, sedation, delusions and visual and auditory hallucinations. Frequent use can lead to slurred speech, ataxia, intoxication, impaired judgment and various acute and chronic toxic effects. Prolonged exposure can also result in addiction.

Known as solvent abuse, the intentional inhalation or consumption of these substances for their psychoactive effects can cause severe health issues. This includes long-term damage to organs like the liver, lungs and kidneys, as well as irreversible brain damage that can impair cognitive functions and lead to memory loss and psychiatric disorders.

Inhalants are commonly found as commercial products in many households and workplaces making it challenging to curb their misuse. Despite attempts by manufacturers to make these products less attractive for inhalation by altering their composition and efforts by stores to limit sales to minors or those who appear intoxicated, there are no specific laws in Ontario that enforce these practices. Solvent and aerosol products, which are often not recognised as potential drugs, can be abused in several ways, including sniffing directly from the container, huffing from a soaked rag or bagging. Similarly, nitrous oxide, used both in medical settings and found in whipped cream dispensers, is typically inhaled from a balloon due to its pressurized and cold nature, while nitrites are inhaled directly from their containers or a cloth.

The primary users of solvents and aerosols are young people, aged between 10 and 16 years with usage patterns ranging from experimental to chronic, potentially extending into adulthood. Factors such as poverty, educational struggles, limited opportunities, familial issues and a family history of substance abuse are linked to inhalant use. A 2011 survey of Ontario students in grades 7 to 12 revealed that 5.6% had experimented with sniffing glue or solvents in the past year with the highest incidence of 12.2% observed in seventh graders. Additionally, a 2004 survey across Canada indicated that 1.3% of individuals aged 15 and over had used inhalants at least once in their lifetime.

Addiction treatment programs provide necessary support for individuals struggling with solvent abuse. In rehab centers, a combination of detoxification, counselling, therapy and support groups is offered in a safe and supportive environment, addressing both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction to aid recovery.

What Are Organic Solvents? - Resource for Solvent Addiction

Organic solvents are type of inhalants such as petrol, thinners and glue. The addictive properties of organic solvents make it hard to stop. Get help from qualified counsellors.

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