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Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin
 

Early intervention key to reducing young people's deaths from volatile substance use

Date posted: 2 October 2013

A new report highlights the need to intervene early to prevent unintentional deaths from poisoning in young people in New Zealand.

Between 2002 and 2008 there were 202 poisoning deaths in young New Zealanders aged 15-24. Poisoning is the second most common cause of unintentional injury death for young people in New Zealand. Volatile substance use - also known as sniffing, huffing and bagging - is the cause of most unintentional poisoning deaths, with butane gas often involved.

Child Youth Mortality Review Committee (CYMRC) Chair, Dr Nick Baker, says interventions such as recognising warning signs and improving control of some poisons can save lives. 'For example, it is important to be aware of the risks for young people close to you, give clear support, notice the warning signs of substance use and get help,' he said.

Dr Barker states that while no family is immune to tragic deaths of this type, too often a pattern emerges where problems start very early in life or even before birth, and continue as the child grows, culminating in a life that ends abruptly. 'These underlying problems can include brain damage from alcohol before birth, poor attachment to caregivers, lack of stability while growing up, neglect or abuse. Many of the young people who died because of poisoning were not well-connected to support systems, putting them further at risk, with missed opportunities to intervene,' Dr Barker said.

The CYMRC undertook a detailed analysis of the unintentional poisoning deaths of 90 young people aged 15 to 24 years and identified common themes. As well as the cause of death, information considered included case reviews conducted by local child and young people mortality review groups.

The report also calls for safer prescribing, dispensing and disposal of medicines, and law changes to tighten access to harmful substances. Retailers can also do simple things to reduce access, such as removing volatile substances from in-store displays.

Source: Scoop Independent News

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Last updated: 1 October 2013
 
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