Demand Reduction - Treatment / Help

On this page: Clinical treatment | Short interventions & treatment programs 

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“Volatile substance abuse is not solely a drug problem, but a problem about young people who invariably have complex individual problems and their drug use is a symptom of these problems.  Strategies must therefore address the underlying causes of the inhalation of volatile substances” (Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee (2002), Inquiry into the inhalation of volatile substances: final report. Melbourne: Govt. Printer for the State of Victoria, p. viii).

Programs aimed at reducing demand for inhalants target the social, educational and health issues facing inhalant users. The strategies include targeted education programs to prevent the uptake of inhalant use in high risk communities, short or long term diversion programs aimed at providing activities to engage users, counselling on family and health issues and the development of employment or training opportunities.  Many of these projects are being developed at the community level to address the inhalants abuse problem in their specific region.     

Clinical treatment

Treatment guidelines
Recommendation 26 of the National directions on inhalant abuse, final report [website] states that the Australian Government should:

 “develop guidelines for the treatment of inhalant abuse that explore the range of treatment options for inhalant users and include information relevant to workers in the broad health and welfare sector, in particular those in the mental health, juvenile justice and protective service sectors” (p.43).

National Health and Medical Research Council (2011). Consensus-based clinical practice guideline for the management of volatile substance use in Australia. Melbourne: National Health and Medical Research Council.

The Victorian Department of Human Services has developed a set of guidelines specifically for frontline workers dealing with inhalant users.  Management response to inhalant use: guidelines for the community care and drug and alcohol sector. [website]

Queensland Health (2002)
Chapter 9 Volatile Substances protocols in Clinical protocols for detoxification: general practice and community settings. [pdf - 635 kB]

New South Wales Department of Health (2006)
National clinical guidelines for the management of drug use during pregnancy, birth and the early development years of the newborn. [pdf - 1.13 MB]

South Australian Alcohol and other Drugs Nursing and Midwifery Statewide Action Group (2003)
Section 3.8 Solvents (inhalants, volatile solvents) in Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs guidelines for nurses and midwives: clinical guidelines, version 2. [pdf - 1.76 MB]

Short interventions and treatment programs

The National directions on inhalant abuse, final report [website] noted the lack of dedicated treatment programs for inhalants users. Where these do exist they are programs developed at a community level to respond to a specific need. Often generic drug and alcohol treatment programs are used with some success. However special considerations need to be taken into account given the age and cultural diversity of the inhalants user group.

Short term interventions
The Victorian Department of Human Services has produced an inhalant information sheet listing short-term interventions as part of the Management response to inhalant use: guidelines for the community care and drug and alcohol sector.  Short-term interventions [website]

Counselling for both users and their families is commonly part of  treatment programs offered in Australia.  These include drug counselling as well as relationship and life skill counselling.  These services are provided by doctors, nurses, other healthcare workers, and specialist counsellors.

Diversion Programs
It has been noted that young people often use inhalants due to boredom and/or lack of education/skills opportunities.  Diversionary programs that engage youth and provide opportunities for self growth have had success as part of a strategy for the management of inhalant use.  Programs can include

  • sporting and other recreational programs such as discos and movies
  • Art and craft programs
  • educational and vocational programs
  • cultural based programs

Residential  and outstation rehabilitation facilities
There are very few residential inhalant specific treatment centres around Australia.  In the Northern Territory serveral residential programs have been set up in Alice Springs offering programs that include medical treatment, counselling, an education program and recreational activites.  Outstations have also been used with success for Indigenous communities. Mt. Theo [website] is an example of this.  Young users are removed from their community and sent for a period of time to an outstation where they have an opportunity to 'dry out' and  engage in traditional activities such as hunting and story telling.  It is used as an opportunity to reconnect the user to the land and family system, while providing some time out for the users community. 



For more information look in the database.  Use search terms such as: Demand Reduction, treatment, counselling, prevention, diversion, first aid, intervention.

Page last updated 14 October 2013

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