If you think your child is abusing volatile substances, keep an eye out for lots of empty aerosol cans, tubes of glue and nozzles with teeth marks on them. You may see some changes in behaviour such as:

  • mixing with a new group of friends who hang out in secluded places
  • mood swings
  • attitude or behaviour deteriorating
  • altered sleep patterns and difficulty getting out of bed
  • secretive or evasive behaviour, and problems in school, such as poor performance and absences.

The reasons for misusing volatile substances might include experimentation, boredom or peer pressure. But some people misuse volatile substances to escape the daily stresses in their lives, particularly if they don’t have good coping skills, problem solving skills and if they feel isolated. If you think your child is engaging in this risky behaviour, try to talk to them and spend time with them. Keep trying, and be gentle. Let them know you are concerned and how their behaviour makes you feel. When young people have a relationship with their parents and when they feel safe, they’re more likely to want to share what’s happening in their lives.

Speak to your child’s school counsellor, and encourage your child to speak to them as well, and seek professional help.

Don’t accept no for an answer. If you don’t get the help you need the first time you ask for it, ask someone else, and keep trying until you do.

It’s a reality. It’s what’s
happening. The more we keep it in the
dark, the more we don’t talk about it, the
more kids are going to die. I didn’t know till
Nathan was well dead what it was.
Most young people who
are abusing substances and looking
for help say they want a better
relationship with their family, in
particular their parents.
Ben Birks