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Mental Health Tips > Organic solvents (thinner)

Organic solvents (thinner)
(Special thanks to Dr Ricky Tung of Institute of Mental Health, Castle Peak Hospital, for authoring this article)

 
1. What are organic solvents?
2. What are the psychological effects of abusing organic solvents?
3. What are the major hazards of organic solvent abuse?
4. Are organic solvents addictive?



1. What are organic solvents?

Organic solvents generally refer to liquid which has solvent property and evaporate readily. It has a strong smell and irritates the nose. Examples are paint thinner, gasoline, lighter refill and glue. Strictly speaking, abusing organic solvents per se is not illegal, unless disorderly behavior ensues and breaking the law. Nonetheless, abusing organic solvents leads to serious health damage which can be even worse than that of other illicit drugs. Because of the serious health hazard, abuse of organic solvents is more common in juvenile delinquents who cannot afford other types of psychoactive drugs.

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2. What are the psychological effects of abusing organic solvents?

After inhalation, the organic solvents rapidly go to the brain by blood circulation, causing a hypoxic effect. Therefore, it gives a rapid onset “drunkenness” feeling, including lightheadedness, drowsiness, dizziness, unsteady gait and hallucination. This effect lasts for about 30 minutes, but it can last longer in chronic abusers. After the acute effect is over, the person suffers from headache, nausea, vomiting and slurred speech etc. As acute effects give rise to impaired judgment or even loss of consciousness, the person is prone to injury, fatal accidents and other reckless behaviour.

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3. What are the major hazards of organic solvent abuse?

The major hazard is the risk of sudden death, which can be due to heart failure caused by irregular heart beat, triggering an occult cardiac problem or suffocation upon loss of consciousness. Chronic inhalation of organic solvents causes cancer and a wide range of permanent damages to different major organs, e.g. bone marrow failure, liver and renal failure, damage to central nervous system leading to dementia, blindness and deafness.

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4. Are organic solvents addictive?

Yes. Although the withdrawal symptoms are non-specific, persistent use of organic solvents results in intense psychological craving which is difficult to subside.

Websites with relevant information / Reference

Government antidrug website

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