Gases cause abuse deaths

GAS fuels such as lighter fluid continue to be the cause of most deaths associated with volatile substance abuse according to a new report.They accounted for two-thirds of such fatalities in 2001 - the latest year for which figures are available.

GAS fuels such as lighter fluid continue to be the cause of most deaths associated with volatile substance abuse according to a new report.

They accounted for two-thirds of such fatalities in 2001 - the latest year for which figures are available.

The data comes in a report which looked at deaths caused by substances such as butane lighter refills, aerosols and glue between 1971 and 2001.

Although fatalities dropped during the 1990's following a campaign, the report found that the death toll has remained largely unchanged since 1992 with an average of 75 every year.


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However Carey Godfrey, co-ordinator of Suffolk Drug Action Team said that there had not been any deaths in the county for a number of years in relation to that form of drug abuse.

He said: "This does not mean that there are not other people out there who do abuse it, but I don't think there has been any increase of it in Suffolk.

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"It may be because other substances are more available now.

"Trading Standards got involved in relation to the sale of lighter fluids to people under age."

Mr Godfrey added that the team was waiting for the completion of a report on drug trends in young people in the county, so that could reveal more soon.

The new study, by the Department of Community Health Sciences at St George's Hospital Medical School in south west London, showed that in 2001 there were 63 deaths associated with volatile substance abuse.

A similar number of deaths - 65 - was recorded in 2000, down from a peak of 152 deaths in 1990.

The researchers noted that the majority of the deaths in 2001 - 42 out of the 63 - were caused by gas fuels, such as lighter fluid and domestic bottled gas.

Just four deaths in 2001 were caused by glue, and 13 caused by aerosols.

The report noted that for the first time in 2001 there was "strong evidence" of disposable cigarette lighters being involved in substance abuse deaths.

But since 1992 "despite interventions including legislation in 1999 to restrict the sale of butane lighter refills to under-18s, deaths have remained largely unchanged' - an average of 75 each year.

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