Skip to main content

What are volatile substances?

Volatile substances also known as inhalants or solvents, are substances that are sniffed or breathed in through the nose and/or mouth to give the person using the drug an immediate high.

There are four main types of inhalants:

  • Volatile solvents
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Gases
  • Nitrites

What are the effects of volatile substances?

Most volatile substances have an immediate effect. The high usually only lasts for a few minutes. Users sometimes keep on sniffing to prolong the high, in some cases this can lead to loss of consciousness, brain damage, and even death.















(Information from

For young people

Inhalants by headspace:

For retailers

Retailer Information Sheet by Amity Community Services:

Retailer information sheet A

Retailer information sheet B

Responsible sale of solvents by Central Australian Youth Link-Up Service (CAYLUS)

A Retailer's Response to Inhalants by Dovetail

For services

Understanding Inhalants by Dovetail

Caring for people who sniff petrol or other volatile substances: A Quick Reference Guide for Health Workers - Dovetail Queensland

Youth Outreach Fact Sheet - Dovetail Queensland

Inhalants: what you need to know - Dovetail Queensland

Review of volatile substance use among Indigenous people - HealthInfonet