Developing a community response - Step 2

Step 2. Gather information

It is important to gain clarity on the following: the extent of the problem; resources needed to address the problem; and what has worked in other communities. This information will help to develop the most effective response to the issue.

The problem

Identify and describe the problem and the reasons for the problem. The information gathered needs to answer the following questions:

  • How big is the problem?
    • how many people are using
    • what are they using
    • where are they using
    • when are they using
    • how often are they using
    • where do they access the products (purchased, stolen or from home)
    • how old are they
    • who are they
    • male/female
  • What are the problems caused by the VSU?
    • antisocial behaviour (theft, violence, vandalism)
    • community conflict
    • family problems
    • other
  • What are the reasons for use?
    • boredom/lack of things to do
    • peer pressure
    • family issues or other problems
    • easy access to volatile substances
    • changes to supply of other drugs
    • arrival of volatile substance users into the community
    • other
  • Are there other factors that enable the VSU to occur?
    • a lack of knowledge about VSU within the community, i.e. parents, police, teachers, retailers, contractors, health workers
    • easy to access from shop/homes/industrial sites/contractors/tourists
    • other

When collecting the above information, ensure the confidentiality and privacy of the users and their families.


Compile a list of the community’s tools and resources. Consider resources available such as:

  • people
  • skills
  • programs/services
  • equipment
  • funds

Identify any gaps in the resources available. What else is needed? This Information Gathering template has been developed to assist with this process.

What has worked in other communities

There are a range of strategies that have worked in other communities to respond to VSU. Many of these are documented in the literature, including: Volatile substance misuse: A review of interventions by d’Abbs & MacLean (2008). There are also a number of towns and regions across WA who have implemented VSU strategies. For more information, see the Working Groups in WA page of this website.

It is important to remember that each community is different and that the context of the VSU issue will differ according to factors such as location, culture and access to services. Therefore the most effective response will be one which is tailored to suit the specific needs and issues of the local community

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