Opal fuel reduces huffing in communities where it is available. Huffing or sniffing of toxic chemicals such as petroleum has been reduced by up to 70% in some remote Australian communities where teens and young children have previously been in the habit of sniffing petrol to get high.
Children as young as 6 continue to be in need of drug addict help for substance abuse in the form of sniffing a variety of inhalants. Many become hospitalised due to hypoxia, or lack of oxygen and some suffer permanent brain and physical damage as a result of inhalant use.
The Australian government has for some years introduced Opal fuel ( similar to Comgas ) to a wide area of Central Australia where petrol sniffing has been a problem among the indigenous population. Opal has been developed in preference to Comgas because Comgas has the toxic residue tetra-ethyl lead (TED) that can be absorbed into the body.
Tests on Opal fuel show that is compatible with vehicles designed to run on 91 octane fuel, and also show that Opal fuel is more or less equivalent in performance to normal petrol. However, using Opal fuel has the advantage that petrol sniffers don’t find it attractive. Opal fuel has reduced petrol sniffing in Australia.
People are less attracted to Opal fuel because it lacks the aromatic component of ordinary fuel and and users don’t get a “buzz” from sniffing it. Opal petrol has around 5% of the aromatics, including benzine and toluene that create the euphoric effects, compared with around 25% of these aromatics in ordinary petrol. Over 106 outback communities are now supplied with Opal fuel leading to less petrol sniffing.
In countries such as Mexico, ravaged by drug wars, there is evidence of solvent abuse increasing in young children, In Canada, the indigenous people of Northern Labrador have expressed interest in getting Opal fuel into their communities. In 2002 an entire community at Davis Inlet was re-located due to problems with petrol sniffing by young children. BP who makes Opal fuel has no refineries in Canada, but would be open to another company making its product, to support such a community program as is available to people who live in Central Australia and the goldfields. Logistical problems prevent Mexico, Northern Labrador and other communities from instituting programs to end petrol sniffing by young children.
Putting an end to petrol sniffing is only a harm reduction method, and does not completely address the reasons why otherwise healthy children turn to substance abuse. The answers might be found in the pervasive disempowerment and devaluation of these communities within society, and resultant depression, anger and frustration in the younger generation. It is not about pouring in money, but in addressing their emotional needs. At the end of the day, all people want to be accepted as equals by society – and have equal opportunity.
SCACS – the Australian Senate Community Affairs Committee Secretariat has in 2009 reviewed the Australian model –and having assessed its impact, is looking to introduce Opal fuel throughout the Northern Territory. Opal fuel reduces huffing, or petrol sniffing in young children. It is an opportunity to be grasped by any government wishing to provide drug addict help for young children, a useful start towards eventual resolution of a tragic community problem.