Guiding principles

The approach taken to address volatile substance use (VSU) differs from that of other substances for a range of reasons. This includes complex and interwoven issues such as the availability of volatile substances, the young age of most users, the high risk of sudden death and the distressing and often highly visible nature of VSU in a local community.

The following guiding principles are important considerations for developing effective strategies when responding to VSU:

  • VSU is a complex problem that requires a coordinated multi-faceted response comprised of a range of complementary interventions, including those aimed at:
    • supply reduction
    • demand reduction
    • harm reduction.
  • Prevention strategies targeting individuals, families and communities are critical to reducing the harms associated with VSU.
  • Wherever possible, strategies to address VSU should be informed by evidence from rigorous research, critical evaluation, practitioner and community expertise, and the needs and preferences of the individual client.
  • Use of volatile substances must be addressed as part of a comprehensive, holistic approach to health that includes physical, spiritual, cultural, emotional and social well-being, community development and capacity building.
  • An effective response to VSU requires a collaborative approach between a range of stakeholders at a local, regional and state-wide level.
  • The support and involvement of local communities in any response is essential.
  • Strategies that address VSU issues should take broader alcohol and other drug (AOD) interventions into consideration.
  • Addressing VSU within a community is best implemented within the context of a comprehensive, holistic approach to health that includes physical, spiritual, cultural, emotional and social wellbeing, community development and capacity building.
  • In circumstances where prevalence is low and knowledge among young people is not widespread, discretion must underlie action relating to VSU in order that the problem is not exacerbated or spread.
  • Strategies are best applied on a regional basis to avoid displacement of the issue from one community to another.
  • When addressing VSU in Aboriginal communities, responses must be culturally secure to address the needs of the community in the planning, development and implementation of appropriate strategies.
  • Vigilance must be maintained to protect the confidentiality and privacy rights of volatile substance users and their families. 

WA Volatile Substance Use Support Plan 2012–2015