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Volatile Substances

Volatile substances give off fumes or vapours that when inhaled, can cause significant side effects and damage to the users brain over a period of time. Volatile substances can be in form of:

  • intoxicating fuels for vehicles (petrol)
  • butane gas (lighter fluids)
  • aerosol paints and sprays (spray paint)
  • glue
  • correction fluids

Effects of sniffing can be like alcohol in the first instance however the effects are usually felt more immediately than alcohol. The effects usually wear off after around 1 hour, with the 'high' usually lasting only a few minutes.

Short term use has been found to cause little lasting damage, however long term use can lead to organ damage and cancer, and most significantly brain damage.

The Northern Territory introduced legislation in 2006 to address volatile substance abuse. Information on the Legislation specifics can be found on our  Legislation page.

Further related information visit our Withdrawal Services  page.

Key Publications

National Inhalants information service provides extensive information over a range of the community on volatile substance misuse. This is vital information for parents and teachers in order to ascertain signs and symptoms of inhalant misuse. This information may be accessed via the National Inhalants Information Service web site.







Last Reviewed: August 2009