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What is volatile substance use?

The most common form of volatile substance use in Victoria involves breathing in vapours of paint sprayed from an aerosol paint container into a plastic bag. This is also known as chroming.

Other types of inhalants include commonly available household chemicals such as nail polish remover, glue, adhesive cement, lighter fluid or paint thinners.

Young teenagers (10-16) are the group most likely to experiment with inhalants. Like alcohol, these substances depress the brain and central nervous system. Symptoms include drowsiness, intoxication, excitement and mood swings.

If large doses are inhaled users could feel disorientated and may lack co-ordination. This disorientation often leads to users injuring themselves through falling etc.

Inhalation of these substances is not an offence in Victoria. However, legislation gives police the power to search, seize, apprehend and detain without warrant a person who they have reasonable grounds to suspect:

  • is under 18
  • has in their possession an item of volatile substance, or
  • is inhaling or about to inhale.

Police may exercise these powers in public places and also private places if the occupier (or owner) of the premises consents. Protective services officers (PSOs) may also search, seize and apprehend a person under these circumstances, but only when on active duty in the vicinity of a designated place.

In exercising powers of seizure, search, apprehension and detention where a person is under 18 years of age, police (or PSO) must take into account the best interests of that person.

Legislation also gives police (and PSOs) the power to search a person over 18 without a warrant if they suspect on reasonable grounds that person intends to provide an inhalant to a person aged under 18.

Offence to sell for use as an inhalant

It is an offence to sell a volatile substance if it can be proven that the person knew or ought to have known that the substance was going to be inhaled, or otherwise introduced into the body.

Penalty

The penalty is 50 penalty units or up to 2 years jail.

More information

Legislation

Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic)

  • s. 57(1)—explains what is meant by a volatile substance
  • s. 58—creates the offence of selling for use as an inhalant
  • s. 60A—legislation's aim is for protection
  • s. 60B—police to take into account the best interests of person under 18 years of age
  • s. 60E—police may search person under 18 years of age without warrant
  • s. 60F—search of person irrespective of age without warrant

See Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic)(opens in a new window)

Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances (Volatile Substances) Regulations 2004 (Vic)

  • r. 6—where police want to conduct search of person under 18 on private premises, if person nominates adult then police must take reasonable steps to locate adult so that they can be present during search.

See Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances (Volatile Substances) Regulations 2004 (Vic)(opens in a new window)

References

Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee—Inquiry into the inhalation of volatile substances(opens in a new window)

Updated