School education

There is currently a clear consensus in Australia, reflected in a range of national and state policies and strategies, that education about volatile substance use (VSU) should not be part of mainstream school drug education. The rationale for this approach is that educating young people about cheap, legal, easily accessible volatile substances, of which they may have little current knowledge, risks sparking interest in their use and could lead to experimentation.

The WA Taskforce on Butane Misuse in their investigation of the prevalence of butane misuse in 2006 in Western Australia, carefully considered whether the current approach to VSU education in WA is consistent with the extent of VSU and young people’s level of knowledge and awareness.The Taskforce concluded that any adjustment to such an approach needs to be tempered by the considerable proportion of young people who remain naïve about the issue and the risk of exposing them to increased potential for misuse and harm.

Therefore, the Taskforce recommended that school drug education about VSU should occur when groups of students are at-risk by virtue of a local outbreak or ‘fad’, or by widespread knowledge and discussion of the issue by young people. In these cases, education around VSU should be through a targeted approach. Where this is not required, generic drug-related education that emphasises these products as poisons and hazardous chemicals is recommended.

In the United Kingdom and the United States, VSU is included in the general drug education curriculum. However, it is acknowledged that education in relation to volatile substances must be delivered in a sensitive manner, taking care not to provide too much information, specifically relating to details of products.

In the United Kingdom, VSU is the second most popular illicit drug used by young people (after cannabis) and between 1971 and 2009, there were 2,390 VSU-related deaths, with 152 deaths in 1990 alone. For these reasons the United Kingdom have included volatile substances in their school drug education. 

For more information about VSU education in schools, see the following pages of this website:

List of related resources laid out in a table.

Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee - Inquiry into the inhalation of volatile substances: Final report

Parliament of Victoria, Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee. See Part F - Education issues pertaining to volatile substance abuse (pp. 267-342).

Tags Education | Publication

2002 DCPC-1viii

Sniffing: The dangers of solvent use by young people

Department of Education and Training, New South Wales. Includes background information, intervention strategies and incident response.

Tags Education | pdf 188.3 KB

2002 DETNSW-1

Volatile solvents: A resource for schools

Department of Education and Training, Victoria. Framework for addressing school issues related to VSU. Contains policy guidelines, background information, strategies for dealing with incidents of use, community programs and curriculum materials.

Tags Education | pdf 348.3 KB

2000 DETVIC-1

See other School education-related resources from the Resource Library of this website.