Concern as primary pupils test solvents

John O'Brien
John O'Brien

PRIMARY school-aged children in Levenmouth have been “experimenting” with solvents.

The founder of the Lee O’Brien Solvent Trust (LOST), John O’Brien, has told the Mail that, in recent months, he’s been invited into Levenmouth primary schools to spread the message of the dangers of inhaling solvents.

Mr O’Brien lost his son Lee to solvents in 2002 when he was just 16 years old.

Since then, he has dedicated himself to ensuring that other parents don’t have to suffer the same misery by raising awareness among those who may be tempted to inhale.

However, Mr O’Brien, who is now also a Levenmouth councillor, said he was stunned to learn of the ages of some of those known to be taking the risk.

Speaking to the Mail on Monday, he said: “This may surprise people but I was recently invited into a primary school in Levenmouth to give a talk.

“I’ll not say which school it was, but the teachers had become concerned that some of the young people there were experimenting with solvents that they’d just stumbled across.”

LOST, which is based on Leven’s High Street, has been struggling of late to keep its head above water financially.

The charity is not funded by Fife Council or the Alcohol and Drugs Partnership, so relies on donations and other grants.

After raising nearly £10,000 earlier this year, Mr O’Brien used that cash to secure LOST’s base in Leven until 2014 but fears he may have to close the charity after then, should no new funding become available.

He added: “We were out at Adam Smith College recently, speaking to hundreds of students about solvents.

“We’re also in homeless shelters, where the people there say they’d rather buy a can of lighter fluid than alcohol now because of the price difference.

“The work we do is vitally important but, unless we can get some new funding in place, then I fear we’ll have to close after 2014.”

LOST currently has 10 volunteers who help Mr O’Brien spread the message about solvent abuse.

The volunteers also visit high schools in the area, where the advice is given free of charge.

Unless funding comes forward, Mr O’Brien says one measure he may be forced into taking is to start charging for his seminars.

“I don’t want to get to that stage,” he added.

“But unless we get new funding, we may have to.”