Acute harms associated with inhalant misuse: Co-morbidities and trends relative to age and gender among ambulance attendees

Rose Crossin, Debbie Scott, Katrina G. Witt, Jhodie R. Duncan, Karen Smith, Dan I. Lubman

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Inhalant misuse is the deliberate inhalation of products containing toluene to induce intoxication. Chronic harms associated with inhalant misuse are well described; including alcohol and other drug use, mental health disorders, and suicidal behaviours. However, the nature of the acute harms from inhalants and characteristics of people who experience those harms are not well understood. Therefore, this study aimed to identify the acute harms associated with inhalant misuse attendances, and to determine whether these differ by age or gender. Methods: Ambulance attendance data (Victoria, Australia) from January 2012 to June 2017 were extracted from a database of coded ambulance records. 779 ambulance attendances involving inhalant misuse were identified. Attendance characteristics were categorised by age and gender. Co-morbidities of current mental health, self-harm and suicidal behaviour were assessed, plus the involvement of alcohol and other drugs. Results: Overall, attendances related to the acute harms of inhalant misuse have decreased over time, although that trend has reversed from January 2015. Gender differentiated the acute harms associated with inhalant misuse. Males were older and presented with concurrent alcohol and other drug use. Females were younger and presented with concurrent suicidal ideation and self-injury. Attendances for under 15-year-olds are increasing; this age group was over-represented, predominantly female, with a strong association with self-injury. Conclusions: Ambulance presentations related to inhalant misuse were associated with acute and serious harms. This study highlights that the acute treatment needs of those misusing inhalants are complex and may need to be tailored to gender and age groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-53
Number of pages8
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018


  • Adolescents
  • Mental health
  • Poly-drug use
  • Suicidal behaviour
  • Volatile solvent abuse

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