Chroming, also called solvent abuse, is when you get high by breathing in or inhaling a chemical like petrol, glue, paint or solvent. Although people of all ages engage in chroming, it happens most often among young people and teenagers. One reason for this is that many of the chemicals used for chroming can be purchased as over-the-counter household goods.
Solvent abuse is more prevalent in some areas. For example, in the City of Yarra area, the number of 12 to 14 year-olds who have sniffed glue or chromed is significantly higher than the Victorian average.
Why do people chrome?
When you chrome you are inhaling chemicals that affect your perception. These chemicals are called depressants and they affect you in a way similar to how drugs such as alcohol, marijuana or heroin affect your body.
There are different and often complex reasons why people use drugs and alcohol. When someone chromes, it’s usually for the same reason that they use other drugs.
They might do it because it makes them feel rebellious, ‘dangerous’ or it fulfils an attention-seeking need. They might also be bored or not have much to occupy their time. They might simply be curious or want to fit in with a group. Or they may do it as a way to overcome low self-esteem, a lack of confidence, or cover up or find relief from emotional pain.
There is no single or simple explanation as to why young people engage in chroming. Parts of northern and north-western Melbourne have some of the highest youth unemployment rates in the Victoria and some of these areas also have some of the highest rates of youth trying solvents or other substances.
Mental health, which is linked to substance use, is a very serious health issue for people aged 12-25 across the region, particularly in the Melton, Hume and Wyndham areas.
All these factors (and many others, such as education and socio-economic advantage) likely contribute in some way to why and how often people chrome. However, it cannot be said that any of them on their own causes chroming.
What happens to your body when you chrome?
The likelihood and level of harm that can result from chroming depends on many factors. This will include things like how much you’ve inhaled, gender, age, body weight, how much you’ve had to eat, your tolerance, mental state, what other drugs you’ve consumed, and others.
As with any drug, the most reliable method to prevent harm from chroming is to avoid it altogether.
One reason why people chrome is that the effects tend to be felt quickly. Some of the immediate effects of chroming may include:
- Tiredness or drowsiness.
- Confusion or giddiness.
- Feeling more relaxed or feeling on edge.
- Losing coordination and being clumsy.
- Loss of inhibition (taking greater risks).
- Ringing in your ears.
- Slurred speech.
- Coughing or sneezing.
- Eyes that are glazed, red or watery.
- Running or bleeding nose.
Why is chroming harmful?
There is no amount of solvent that can be chromed that is safe. The more you take and and the longer you do it, the greater the risk.
Problems from chroming might include:
- Injury or death from falls, road accidents, drowning, etc.
- Greater chance of getting involved in violence.
- Chest pains or unusual heart rate.
- Hallucinations, psychotic episodes or even paranoia.
- Burns from highly flammable chemicals.
- Falling unconscious, going into a coma, or death.
- Seizures or blackouts.
Long-term effects of chroming
Chroming can result in serious harm among long-term users. This can include physical health problems as well as effects on mood. Known effects of extended solvent abuse include difficulty remembering or short attention span, or noticeable mood swings, be it strong feelings of anger (even resulting in violence), depression, irritability or anxiety.
It can also cause constant feelings of tiredness or intense thirst, stomach problems, or weight loss.
It can affect muscle control or your ability to walk, and may even result in brain damage, liver damage or kidney damage due to chemical poisoning.
Is chroming addictive?
Chroming can become addictive, much like many other drugs. Although addiction is a complex issue with many underlying reasons and causes, an addiction to chroming has some common signs, including:
- You need to sniff or chrome to get through the day or just to “feel normal”.
- Not doing it makes you feel sick or dizzy.
- You feel down, anxious or angry when you’re not chroming.
- Your hands get shakes or tremors.
- You get an upset stomach or feel like you need to throw up.
Concerned? Talk to a professional counsellor on 1300 096 269. It’s free to people in north, western and central Melbourne and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Want to know where else you can get help? Find out how to access additional community support.
The CAREinMIND blog is delivered by On the Line. The views in each post do not necessarily reflect those of North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.