For volatile substance users
Targeted education about volatile substance use (VSU) should be aimed at those currently using, or at risk of using. This target group may be broader in a community where VSU is at significant levels and knowledge of VSU is high.
Education provided should include information about:
- short-term and long-term harmful effects of VSU
- strategies for quitting or at least reducing VSU
- basic first aid and care for an intoxicated person
- harm reduction strategies.
(National Health and Medical Research Council, 2011)
Information about harms needs to be in context of the rest of the user’s life. People who live in chaotic, dysfunctional situations may regularly face a range of dangers, compared to which VSU and its consequences may not seem particularly significant to the user. Targeted education works best when it is focused on consequences that people can relate to and/or that are important to them e.g. the effect it can have on their ability to play sport. Education about VSU and related matters also needs to be age-appropriate and matched to the person's cognitive ability to comprehend.
Focusing on VSU-related harms such as sudden sniffing death or other serious health consequences may have little relevance to many users, particularly young users. It can reduce the credibility of the information if they have never known anyone to experience such consequences.
Scare tactics should therefore be avoided in VSU education. Focusing on the dangers can also increase the sense of excitement involved with VSU and potentially increase the attraction. Such an approach has generally not been effective in reducing use (d’Abbs & MacLean, 2008).
Finding out why people are using volatile substances may provide some insights into strategies to reduce their use. For example, reasons for use such as easy access to volatile substances, boredom and trauma will all result in different interventions.