Responsible reporting of VSU

Unlike other drugs, both licit and illicit, volatile substances are easily accessible and are found in everyday products around the home, garden and workplace. Volatile substances can be purchased from a wide range of retailers including supermarkets, hardware stores, petrol stations, discount retailers, delicatessens and newsagents. Many are also available for purchase over the internet. As these products have legitimate uses, they need to be publicly available.

Many young people are not aware of these products as intoxicating substances, so it is important that media reporting does not inadvertently raise young people’s awareness to a harmful practice they may not have previously had knowledge of.

Harmful reporting

Reporting which may potentially contribute to young people misusing volatile substances includes any report that makes reference to:

  • brand/product names
  • the purpose or context of a product’s use
  • where to purchase the product
  • the cost of the product
  • method of use, such as how to inhale or access the substance from its container
  • effects of inhaling the product (i.e.: can cause intoxication).

Such information is not essential for reporting on the practice, however in some circumstances, such as in the case of a death attributed to the inhalation of a particular substance, reference to a specific substance may be unavoidable.

Detailed accounts not only inform young people of specific products for use, where to source them and how little they cost, but that cheap and easily accessible products can be used for the purpose of intoxication.

Wherever possible, it is preferable to use broader descriptions of the practice such as 'inhalant use' and to refer to the product as an inhalant, solvent or aerosol product.

Alternative focus

Reports are best focused on the danger of the practice and the importance of seeking assistance wherever necessary, including calling for an ambulance in a medical emergency or seeking help from an alcohol and other drug professional for information and support.

To avoid unnecessarily increasing local concerns and stigmatising the community, the location of the story should not be on the front page or used in headlines. Repetition of coverage is also discouraged to avoid normalising the behaviour in any given locality.

See also the VSU media guidelines page of this website for guidelines on the responsible reporting of VSU issues.