The immediate effects of solvent abuse happen very rapidly and it is therefore unlikely that parents, carers or teaching staff will see the young person whilst they are under the effects. Symptoms are similar to those experienced through alcoholic intoxication and may include happiness, excitement, nausea, headaches or dizziness, although this might also be evidence of the abuse of other substances such as alcohol or even the use of prescribed medicine.
However, there are other factors that may be indicative of solvent abuse. These include:
The disappearance of aerosols, glues and other abusable products. At the same time, empty aerosol, butane or adhesive containers may be found in concealed places where the youngster has been, for example in the home or around the school. The child may make increased demands for money or begin stealing money or shoplifting to support the habit. Reports in the local paper are a good way to monitor problems in the local area.
A chemical smell on the young person’s breath or clothes may be an indication of recent abuse. Rashes and spots around the nose and mouth are symptoms, but only occur with specific products and are easily confused with normal teenage spots and acne.
Apathy, moodiness—particularly violent mood swings and unusual secretiveness regarding the youngster’s social activities may be indicative of VSA. A general decline in attitude and behaviour, or poor attendance, whilst general signs for concern, may point towards a VSA problem. This is by no means a definitive list and individual cases should be assessed and approached with caution to obtain the facts.