Petrol Sniffing in Rural Australia

Jul 1 08:24 2011 Hugh McInnes Print This Article

There are many substances that are misused but perhaps none as readily available as petrol. Petrol sniffing is prevalent in rural areas of Australia and over 100 deaths have been linked to the practice in Aboriginal communities alone. It is thought that US servicemen introduced the practice to the Top End around 1951.

Derived from underground crude oil,Guest Posting petrol is a mixture of toxic hydrocarbons and tetraethyl lead. It is the addition of these aromatic hydrocarbons that give people the ‘high’ that they seek when sniffing petrol. Sniffing the vapors of petrol directly or through a cloth soaked in the substance, leads to rapid intoxication that may last for only a few minutes to several hours. Effects of sniffing petrol include:
- Feeling high- Numbness- Dizziness- Disassociation- Feeling light
These immediate effects are followed by:
- Giddiness- Hallucinations- Loss of motor co-ordination- Slurred speech- Nausea
Petrol sniffing is popular among rural Australians primarily because of the immediate effects. The feeling of being ‘high’ comes on more quickly than from any other substance, including alcohol. Sniffing petrol brings on physical side-effects, both short and long term, as well as social effects that potential users, and current users, don’t consider or care to think about.
Effects of Sniffing Petrol
Many long-term sniffers find that they have trouble with the authorities. Sniffers can often become violent and confrontational, causing damage to others in their presence and to physical property. These crimes bring about stress on both the justice systems and support services that are offered in rural Australia.
Long term health effects of petrol sniffing are many. The central nervous system is affected in a variety of ways: permanent damage to brain cells, tremors, mood swings, aggression, inability to think logically or rationally, seizures and possible brain hemorrhage. The circulatory system can be affected by petrol sniffing by way of: heart damage, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure or a sudden decrease in blood pressure.
Reduced oxygen in the lungs, over an extended period of time can cause irreparable damage to the respiratory system. Reduced red and white cells in bone marrow will lead to an increase in infections and acute inflammation of the liver and kidneys decrease the functions of these organs. Women may find that, even though they have stopped sniffing once made aware of their pregnancy, they have smaller babies and those babies may be born with disabilities and/or birth defects.
There is help available for petrol sniffers. The National Inhalants Information Service is an online service in Australia that provides fact sheets and general information on inhalants and their misuse. The site, along with providing information, can direct users of inhalants, such as petrol, to assistance and guidance available in their state. It is important that anyone, Indigenous or non-Indigenous, who is misusing petrol, stop immediately to prevent further damage to their physical and mental beings.

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Hugh McInnes
Hugh McInnes

Opal Fuel is a low aromatic fuel that has been created to help prevent petrol sniffing in rural Australia

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