Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

VSA Deaths

St Georges have produced their annual report on volatile substance abuse deaths the latest figures are for 2006.

Their press release says:

In 2006, butane from all sources accounted for 33 of the 49 deaths and of these butane cigarette lighter refills formed the largest group. Five deaths in 2006 were as a result of asphyxia associated with the inhalation of nitrous oxide.

In under-18 year olds there were six deaths resulting from volatile substance abuse in 2006, compared with eight in 2005. Two of these deaths were associated with butane cigarette lighter refills, the sale of which to under-18s is prohibited by legislation.

In the report they point out that there were no deaths amongst 10-14 age group in 2006, but:

In 2006 there were no VSA deaths in the 10-14 age group, but at ages 15-19 years VSA accounted for 0.6% of deaths from all causes. In 2006, transport accidents which are by far the most frequent cause of death in these age groups, accounted for 15.4% of all deaths at ages 10-14 years and 31.6% of all deaths at ages 15-19 years. Deaths associated with drug misuse accounted for 0.4% of all deaths in the 10-14 age group and 4.6% of all deaths in the 15-19 age group.

Trends in Death Associated With Abuse of Volatile Substances 1971-2006

Source: Trends in Death Associated With Abuse of Volatile Substances 1971-2006

With a slightly longer perspective things do change.  Since 2000 there have been 32 VSA deaths for the 10 to 14 age group (which compares to 8 deaths related to drug misuse over the same period).  Over the same period 21 VSA deaths can be attributed to 15 year olds (20 deaths due to drugs).  At 16 years the lines have very much crossed as there were 13 VSA deaths and 28 deaths that could be attributed to drugs.

Looking at the trends in VSA as highlighted in the recent Drug Use, Smoking and Drinking among Young People in England in 2007, they show there has been a decline in the numbers of 11 to 15 year olds abusing volatile substances.  Down from 7.1% in 2001 to 6.2% in 2007.  Girls are marginally more likely to abuse volatile substances than boys, but this is not reflected in the statistics reported by St Georges.  They say that all the deaths to under 18s in 2006 were males.

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Filed under: death, VSA, ,

2 Responses

  1. Adrian King says:

    Does this mean, perhaps, that more girls sniff than boys, but girls (as a rule) sniff more safely than boys? If so, I wonder what it is that causes boys to sniff more recklessly (or prevent them from sniffing less dangerously)?

  2. drugeducationforum says:

    Hi Adrian, I’ve been told that our knowledge on this is pretty thin, both in terms of knowing what it is that kills the person abusing the products and the difference between how boys and girls take the drug.

    The speculation is that boys are doing it as a solitary experience and so are more at risk than girls who may be taking the drug as a group. Alternatively it might be about how the drugs are used.

    As I say knowledge seems thin.

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