Twenty-five years of volatile substance abuse mortality: a national mortality surveillance programme

Addiction. 2013 Feb;108(2):385-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2012.04047.x. Epub 2012 Oct 18.


Aims: To investigate trends in volatile substance abuse (VSA) deaths over 25 years.

Design: A national mortality surveillance programme with standardised data collection procedures.

Setting: The UK and islands. PARTICIPANTS/MEASUREMENTS: All VSA deaths, 1983-2007.

Findings: In the five quinquennia from 1983 to 2007 the numbers of VSA deaths were 499, 609, 378, 349 and 258 respectively. There were gradual increases in the mean age at death in males and females and in the number of VSA deaths in women. Coincident with the 1992 Department of Health Advertising Campaign, VSA deaths in boys and girls (<18 years of age) fell by an estimated 56% (95% CI: 36%-70%) and 64% (20%-84%), respectively, from the underlying trend, but there was no evidence of any similar step change in either group following the 1999 Legislation prohibiting sales of cigarette lighter refills containing butane to those under the age of 18 years. Between 1983-1987 and 2003-2007, the ratio of aerosol to gas fuel deaths fell by an estimated 80% (57% to 91%) in adults, while the ratio of glue to gas fuel deaths fell by an estimated 95% (89% to 97%) in adults and an estimated 87% (-1% to 98%) in children.

Conclusions: Between 1983 and 2007, in the United Kingdom, the numbers of deaths associated with volatile substance abuse peaked in the early 1990s and fell to their lowest level in the mid-2000s. The age at death increased in both males and females. There was a fall in the proportion of volatile substance abuse deaths involving glues and a rise, particularly in adults, in the proportion involving gas fuels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adhesives / adverse effects
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aerosols / adverse effects
  • Age Factors
  • Algorithms
  • Butanes / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhalant Abuse / mortality*
  • Male
  • Population Surveillance
  • Sex Factors
  • Solvents / adverse effects
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Adhesives
  • Aerosols
  • Butanes
  • Solvents
  • butane