The Social Impact of Solvent Abuse

New research suggests solvent abuse costs the public purse £346 million every year.


25 Years of VSA

Re-Solv’s Big Lottery funded research project: how learning from 25 years’ of mortality data can inform VSA best practice across the UK.


Other Re-Solv commissioned research



Statistics on Drug Misuse: England, 2017
(ONS, 2017)

Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2016
(ONS, NHS Digital, 2017)
The percentage of pupils who have used volatile substances in the past year has risen from 2.9% in 2014 to 4.4% in 2016 (4.1% boys and 4.8% girls). This does not include nitrous oxide or poppers which have been used by 4% and 0.6% of pupils respectively in the past year. VSA continues to be the most commonly used drug among 11-13 year-olds and second only to cannabis by the age of 15.  (NB: the 2012 report found that “80% of pupils who first tried drugs at the age of 11 or younger reported that they sniffed volatile substances.”).

Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey: Drug Use and Dependence
(ONS 2016)
1.5% of those surveyed had ever used volatile substances (2.5% male and 0.6% female) and 0.3% of 16-24 year-olds surveyed (0.3% male and 0.3% female) had used in the past year.

Drug Misuse: Findings from the 2015/16 Crime Survey for England and Wales
(Home Office, 2015)
0.7% of 16-59 year-olds have used NPS in the past year and 2.6% of 16-24 year-olds. The most recent figures for VSA are contained in the 2009/10 report where 2.3% of 16-59 year-olds have ever used and 3% of 16-24 year-olds.

The European School Survey Report on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD)
(CAN, EMCDDA and The Pompidou Group, 2015)
7% of 15–16 year-old European students have used inhalants and 4% have used ‘legal highs’ within their lifetime. (The UK did not contribute to the 2015 report but the average UK use for both in 2012 was 10%.)

The Global Drug Survey
(GDS, 2018)
Findings from earlier reports also include the fact that people were “3 times more likely end up seeking emergency medical treatment with NPS than traditional drugs” (2016 findings) and the 2015 survey also included a special report on nitrous oxide.


Adult substance misuse statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS)
(Public Health England, 2017)
359 adults were reported to be in treatment for use of ‘solvents’ between April 2016 – March 2017.

Young people’s statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS)
(Public Health England, 2017)
430 young people, with an average age of 15 were reported to be in treatment for use of ‘solvents’ between April 2016 – March 2017.

Secure setting statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS)
(Public Health England, 2017)
In 2016-2017, 71 adults in secure settings received help for solvent use and 12 young people (aged, on average, 15 years old).


Deaths related to volatile substances and helium in Great Britain
(ONS, 2018)
“In 2016, there were 64 deaths related to volatile substances registered in Great Britain; over 80% of these volatile substance abuse (VSA) deaths were males.”

Deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales
(ONS, 2016)
“NPS deaths have increased sharply over the last 5 years, with 114 deaths registered in 2015 (up from 82 deaths in 2014). In 2015, there were 25 deaths involving NPS drugs which were still legal at the time of death.”

Drug-related deaths in the UK
(NPSAD, ICDP, St George’s, University of London, 2013)
This report attributes 43 deaths to NPS in 2013 (the ONS figure for the same time period was 60).

Trends in Death Associated with Abuse of Volatile Substances, 1971-2009
(St George’s, University of London, 2012)
The comprehensive annual report into VSA deaths that drew on data from Coroners’ Reports as well as the data from ICD codes used by the ONS.

Earlier reports:




European Drug Prevention Quality Standards (EDPQS)
The European Prevention Standards Partnership, 2015
Resources to support quality in prevention

Briefing papers from Mentor UK

Social and Emotional Learning
Early Intervention Foundation, 2015
The first publication from the Early Intervention Foundation on the importance of social and emotional skills.

Preventing drug use among children and adolescents
National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2015
A research-based guide for parents, educators and community leaders.

Policy development

ACMD Advice on Nitrous Oxide
March, 2015

New Psychoactive Substances Review: Report of the Expert Panel
Home Office, 2014

New Psychoactive Substances in England: A review of the evidence
Home Office, 2014

Other related research

Health responses to new psychoactive substances
EMCDDA, 2016
” Findings from this study show that health- and drug-related interventions have emerged in response to evidence of harms associated with NPS use in some user groups and settings across Europe.”

Not for Human Consumption
DrugScope, 2015
An updated and amended status report on new psychoactive substances (NPS) and ‘club drugs’ in the UK.

Business As Usual
DrugScope on behalf of the Recovery Partnership, 2014
A status report on new psychoactive substances (NPS) and ‘club drugs’ in the UK.

Could excessive use of aerosols in a confined space result in exposure to lethal levels of butane?
TICTAC Communications Ltd, St George’s – University of London and the British Aerosol Manufacturers’ Association, 2009

“Despite extensive research, calculation and practical testing, we were not able to reproduce conditions which could lead to harmful or fatal effects from excessive spraying of aerosol products in a confined space. However there is no information available regarding the possibility of specific individual hypersensitivity to high concentrations of butane. There may be a significant risk of fire or even explosion if high concentrations of butane are allowed to accumulate. It is wise to always read and follow the manufacturers instructions printed on the product.”

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?