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Petrol-sniffing by Australian Aborigines Increasing

by Gopalan on October 24, 2008 at 1:56 PM
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 Petrol-sniffing by Australian Aborigines Increasing

Australian officials are reporting a sharp rise in petrol-sniffing in aboriginal communities taken over by the government two years ago.

The chemical fumes from petrol provide a cheap high and respite from crushing poverty.

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Ironically the reports have emerged after the federal government took over management of dozens of troubled Northern Territory settlements in a move to curb child abuse and alcoholism.

The federal government's decision to send troops and medical teams to Aboriginal communities in Australia's Northern Territory in 2006 was an emergency response to the twin problems.
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Now tribal leaders say attempts to curb alcohol abuse could themselves be a contributory factor to the petrol-sniffing phenomenon.

Alcohol was prohibited under the multi-billion-dollar rescue plan but as the flow of beer, wine and spirits dried up, some tribal elders have reported an increase in petrol-sniffing.

Aboriginal children as young as five have developed an addiction.

The abuse of petrol can cause brain damage, depression and high blood pressure as well as heart disease and miscarriages.

Some indigenous communities have tried drastic measures to eradicate this scourge by sending addicts to harsh outback camps far away from temptation.

The introduction of a specially designed unleaded fuel has also helped. It has been stripped of the odours that sniffers find so appealing.

But serious problems remain and the situation in some areas is likely to get worse in the coming months.

Aboriginal leaders have said that petrol-sniffing invariably escalates during tropical Australia's wet season.

Many settlements will be closed off by high rivers and impassable roads, and isolation and boredom will often conspire to fuel a rise in this type of substance abuse.

Not all experts are convinced appetite-stopping foods will be a cure-all for obesity.

"Humans are a very messy group to control," said Alice H. Lichtenstein, a nutritionist at Tufts University. People are motivated to eat for various reasons, from taste to price to childhood nostalgia, she said.

Other experts worry about how such foods might be regulated once they are available. "If you have this magic bullet, how do you control who gets it? What do you do about anorexics or female adolescents?" asked Peter Fryer, a chemical engineer at the University of Birmingham who also researches modified foods.

But experts agree that foods that cut appetite could be an effective tool against obesity.

"Dieting is an awful bore and most human beings are very gullible," Bloom said. "We need all the help science can provide."

Source: Medindia
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