VSA deaths

Even for first-time users, death from VSA is an ever-present risk. Death may ensue as a result of convulsions and coma, from inhalation of vomit, or from direct cardiac or central nervous system toxicity. VSA-related deaths can easily be overlooked if sudden deaths of young people are not thoroughly investigated. Postmortem examination usually reveals little, except perhaps acute lung congestion and possibly cold-induced burns to the mouth and throat. Toxicological examination of blood and tissue specimens is used to confirm a diagnosis of VSA-related death. (11)

A long-term study in the United Kingdom identified 1596 VSA-related deaths between 1971 and 1996. ^„i2 The death rate peaked in 1990 with 151 deaths, and declined before increasing once more, with 75 deaths being recorded in 1996.

More than two-thirds of those who die are under 20 years old. Most are male, although the overall proportion of female deaths may be rising; in 1996 female deaths made up 20 per cent of the deaths (in contrast, in prevalence surveys there is little difference in the proportions of boys and girls misusing volatile substances). Volatile-substance-related deaths occur in all social classes in the United Kingdom. However, '...in deaths of those under 16, there was a marked difference in mortality between social classes I and V, with nearly four times as many deaths occurring in social class V...compared with social class I'. ^„i3

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