New research underlines social and financial costs of solvent abuse

Report shows solvent abuse could be costing the public purse up to £346m[1]per year

Social Finance

12 December 2017: A new report launched today by national charity Re-Solv and Bates Wells Braithwaite’s social impact unit, entitled “The Social Impact of Solvent Abuse”, underlines the potential extent of solvent abuse across England and Wales today.

Challenging the commonly-held perception that solvent abuse (inhaling from products such as lighter refills and aerosols) is a thing of the past, the report concludes that the overall cost of solvent abuse to the public purse comes to an estimated £346m per year1, with costs to government services in the region of £281m per year.

The wide-ranging study drew directly on the experiences of solvent-users, and from those working in the substance misuse field, as well as using publically available data. It finds that solvent users’ lives bear many of the long-term hallmarks of chaos and loss found in other substance users’ lives and consequently individuals, families and wider society are living with high social, emotional and financial costs.

However, the report finds that:

  • These costs could be significantly reduced through prevention and early intervention strategies. Cutting the number of solvent users by 20% could save up to £69m a year.
  • Opportunities for early intervention are being missed – recognising and responding to these opportunities could lead to significant long-term savings for government services – many of these are easy to implement.
  • Even reducing the length of addiction by five years would save approximately £1.5m for every twenty habitual and chronic users who are supported to recovery.

These findings follow recently published data from the NHS showing an increase in solvent use among young people in England from 2014 to 2016.

To download a copy of the report, click here to access a PDF document of the research which also outlines its methodology, scope, assumptions, and conclusions.

In response to this research, Stephen Ream, Director at Re-Solv, said:

“Twice as many 11-13 years olds in England reported using solvents last year than reported using cannabis[2]. And yet solvent abuse remains one of the most hidden forms of substance misuse with many people believing it’s a thing of the past. Working with BWB to produce this report has been eye-opening in revealing the extent of the problem. This fresh research is a stark reminder that solvent abuse is still with us, and that people are still struggling with it every day of their lives – but that, even in today’s economic climate, there is achievable work that can be done to reduce the social and human costs.”

Carla Ross, Social Impact lead at, Bates Wells Braithwaite said: 

“This initial research shows that solvent abuse is likely to be a costly social problem for the country. However, there is a dearth of national data on the 164,000 users – some of whom may begin using during primary school. Until we have this data, we can’t establish the true extent of the impact and the scale of costs. The government urgently needs to prioritise further research and collection of data, much of which could be done by including questions about solvent abuse in existing national surveys.”

If you have any questions regarding the findings, or would like to interview either of the above spokespeople, please contact Sam Hunter at Bates Wells Braithwaite on +44 (0) 207 551 7906 / +44 (0) 7393 463 041, email [email protected].

[1] A lack of national data means that we have had to make a number of significant assumptions to arrive at these figures. Please read the executive summary and the sensitivity test in the report for more detail on the assumptions made.

[2] NHS, Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England, 2016

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of December 12, 2017.