- There are likely to be in the region of 57,000 adults in England & Wales who have used glues, solvents, gas or aerosols in the past year.
- 230,000 16-24 year-olds in England and Wales used nitrous oxide in 2021/22.
- In England, 2.4% of 11-15 year olds used glue, gas, aerosols or solvents in 2021 and 1.8% used nitrous oxide.
- There were 38 deaths associated with volatile substances in the UK in 2020 – 24 in England, 1 in Wales, 8 in Scotland and 5 in Northern Ireland.
- Between 2015 and 2020 there were 220 deaths associated with gases and solvents in the UK – an average of 44 deaths per year.
Available information on the latest prevalence, treatment and mortality data is presented below.
Facts about prevalence of solvent abuse in the UK
Drug Misuse Declared: Findings from the 2009/10 British Crime Survey (the last year that statistics on gases and solvents were collected for this report)
- 57,000 adults (aged 16 and over) in England & Wales had used glues, solvents, gas or aerosols in the past year.
- 17,000 had used in the past month.
Drug Misuse in England and Wales: year ending June 2022
In terms of nitrous oxide use:
- 1.3% of adults aged 16 to 59 (around 444,000 people) used nitrous oxide in 2021/22.
- Use was highest among 16-24 year-olds at 3.9% (around 230,000 people).
- Solvent abuse is the most common form of substance misuse among under-14s.
- 2.4% of 11-15 year-olds (2.4% boys and 2.3% girls) reported having used glue, gas, aerosols or solvents in the past year.
- 1.8% of 11-15 year-olds reported having used nitrous oxide.
- 3% of 15 year-old boys and 1% of 15-year old girls reported having used gas, glue or other solvents in the past year.
- 11% of 15 year-old boys and 7% of 15-year old girls reported having been offered gas, glue or other solvents in the past year.
- 7.2% of 15–16 year-old European students have used inhalants within their lifetime.
- The UK did not contribute to the 2019 report but the average UK use for both in 2012 was 10%.
Facts about solvent abuse mortality in the UK
- In 2020, there were 25 deaths related to volatile substances registered in England and Wales.
- 72% of these deaths were males.
- Deaths are most common in those aged 20-39 years of age, although in 2020 the average age of those dying was 46 years old.
- Gas fuels (primarily butane) are responsible for 60% of all deaths.
Facts about solvent abuse treatment in the UK
- 327 adults were in treatment services for solvent abuse between April 2021 – March 2022.
- 329 young people were in treatment services for solvent abuse between April 2021 – March 2022.
- 85 adults and 52 young people in secure settings received help for solvent use between April 2020 and March 2021.
Facts about solvent abuse policy
The Psychoactive Substances Act, 2016
An overview of the Psychoactive Substances Act and supporting documents.
Other solvent abuse research
Could excessive use of aerosols in a confined space result in exposure to lethal levels of butane?
Summarising research carried out by TICTAC Communications Ltd, St George’s, University of London and the British Aerosol Manufacturers’ Association in 2009.
The Social Impact of Solvent Abuse (view report, view infographic)
Bates Wells Braithwaite, 2017
The first report to set out the social impact and model the financial costs of solvent abuse felt by society.
Tackling VSA in Scotland: Interviews with young people
Marina Clayton, 2007
Interviews with young people who are ‘looked after’ and live in a residential establishment. The young people talk about their experience of ‘buzzing’ or ‘sniffing’ solvents.