Thousands of teenagers are putting their lives at risk by sniffing glue, lighter fluid and other substances, a report suggests.
One in seven 15 and 16-year-olds abuse solvents
Figures from the EU drugs agency reveal that one in seven 15 and 16-year-olds in Britain abuse solvents.
Officials said more teenagers probably died from sniffing solvents than died from taking ecstasy or other drugs.
The report also raises concerns about alcohol abuse and the use of drugs like cannabis and cocaine.
The figures are published in the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction's annual report.
It shows that the use of solvents and inhalants is now third only to alcohol and cannabis among 15 and 16-year-olds.
It warns that teenagers who sniff glue and other solvents are seriously risking their health.
"Some 1,700 deaths related to such substances were recorded among young people in the UK alone between 1983 and 2000," the report states.
"This suggests that, despite the high profile given to deaths associated with
ecstasy and other controlled drugs, solvent use might be a greater acute health
risk for young people."
The report also expresses concern about the growing number of teenagers binge drinking.
In addition, it confirms that drug use has increased across Europe.
"Drug use among young people has risen steadily in the 15 EU member states over the last decade," said Georges Estievenart, the centre's executive director.
"Despite some signs of stabilisation among mainstream young people in some
western European countries, there is no evidence of a significant overall
reduction, especially among those most at risk."
He said EU governments faced hard work ahead to meet their agreed target of
reducing drug use significantly among the under-18s by 2004.
Drug deaths among the under-20s totalled 3,103 in the EU in the last decade,
rising steadily from 161 in 1990 to 349 in 2000.
"Today's complex and changing patterns of substance use are a
growing challenge for policy-makers. Young people now have access to a wider
range of substances and more are using them combined with alcohol," he said.
The report shows that one in three 15 and 16-year-olds in Britain and Ireland have used cannabis.
In addition, it suggests that ecstasy use is declining while cocaine use is on the increase.
"Surveys suggest it is rising in the UK and, to a lesser extent, in Denmark,
Germany, Spain and the Netherlands," the report states.
"Overall, the drug-use trend remains upwards and new problems are emerging, such as growing cocaine use in some big cities," Mr Estievenart said.
Warren Hawksley, director of Re-Solv, the Society for the Prevention of Solvent and Volatile Substance Abuse, said solvent abuse was a problem across Europe.
However, he said many European countries do not have reliable figures for the number of teenagers who die from solvent abuse.
"We are the only country to keep accurate figures," he told BBC News Online.
"This is not just a British problem. It is a problem across Europe."