Page last updated at 13:11 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

New Australian fuel 'cuts abuse'

Aboriginal people sit beneath a tree
Boredom, isolation and poverty may encourage substance abuse

A newly developed fuel has successfully reduced petrol-sniffing in Aboriginal communities in Australia's central desert region, a Senate committee said.

The specially designed unleaded petrol, known as Opal, has been modified to remove most of the chemicals that cause a feeling of euphoria when sniffed.

The committee found that the substance abuse was less than one sixth of that when Opal was introduced in 2006.

It recommended that Opal be stocked at all petrol stations in the region.

The central desert region is mostly populated by Aborigines who face high unemployment levels and live in violent and crime-ridden townships.

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

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 the petrol-sniffing scourge by sending addicts to harsh outback camps.

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