Monday 06 February, 2023

Al-Estiklal Newspaper

With a False Perception of Its Safety, Dangers of the Laughing Gas’s Spread in Europe

2022/12/05 15:12:00 | Sara Andalousi | Reports
The second most popular drug in the UK.
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In a study, the European Center for Monitoring Drugs and Addiction shows that the recreational use of nitrous oxide, known as NOS, whippets, and laughing gas, is increasing in Europe among young people, causing alarming numbers of poisoning cases.

According to the center, which is based in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, the growing popularity of this chemical compound, which creates a feeling of euphoria, relaxation, and detachment from reality, is due to its great availability without a prescription, its low price, its ease of use, and the false perception that it is safe.

Nitrous oxide has wide-ranging legal uses in the medical, industrial, and commercial fields, particularly as a propellant in whipped cream dispensers and toilet pumps, and for the latter two purposes, it is sold in inexpensive bulk packs online or in supermarkets.

In some European countries, concerns were raised in 2017 when larger cylinders of the chemical appeared deliberately targeting the recreational market, which often lures inexperienced teenagers into drug use.

 

Great Risk

Users often fill party balloons with laughing gas, which is then inhaled. However, users have recently begun to inhale it directly from gas pumps or from its containers, which poses a great risk of severe cold burns or injuries to the lungs. This chemical compound also affects the brain and spinal cord.

In Denmark, cases of nitrous oxide poisoning increased from 16 in 2015 to 73 in 2021, while in France, cases of poisoning jumped from 10 in 2017 to 134 in 2020.

As for the number of poisoning cases in the Netherlands, it reached 144 cases in 2020. A sharp increase in traffic accidents was noticed due to driving under the influence of drugs or while trying to fill balloons with laughing gas.

According to the European Center for Monitoring Drugs and Addiction, nitrous oxide is the second most popular drug in the UK among teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24, while cannabis ranks first.

In order to control the addiction to laughing gas, the center proposes to reduce the size of the packages or ban the sale to persons less than 18 years of age and party-goers in the evening hours.

 

One in Five

All it takes is a quick inhale from a balloon or a can of whipped cream, and the person gets a sudden, legal, and relatively inexpensive way to get really high. This is why many young people in Europe use the chemical laughing gas.

The gas trade is booming in the Netherlands, but addiction experts are concerned. Matthew Holzken, 48, is considered a pioneer in this field and is determined to make money from the growing popularity of this gas. He said to DW newspaper that his shop in Venray is “the first real laughing gas shop in the Netherlands.”

According to a Dutch report on addiction, one in five people between the ages of 20 and 24 has tried laughing gas, which has become more popular as an affordable and good party drug among the under-35 age group. As the number of laughing gas users increases in the Netherlands, so too do the problems that come with it.

 

Paralysis & Poisoning

 The problem comes daily in the form of dozens of metal capsules and balloons left in parking lots, along streets, and in public parks. Experts say there are also health risks, as the number of poisonings resulting from the use of gas has increased significantly, according to the National Poison Information Center in Utrecht. Nitrous oxide poisoning can cause dizziness, nausea, and even paralysis.

A decision by the European Court of Justice ruled that laughing gas is no longer subject to laws regulating the sale of powerful medicinal medicines, although dentists still use it in small quantities as an anesthetic.

After inhaling this gas, the user feels a short state of euphoria that lasts for one minute at most. Users say they feel stronger sensory sensations, tingling all over the body, as well as some uncontrollable laughter.

The gas is considered relatively harmless, with an “average consumption” of between five and 10 capsules per month, according to health officials. However, when combined with alcohol or other drugs, especially when consumed excessively, it can cause permanent damage to the central nervous system.

This is a matter of concern in light of the recent reports of poisoning cases, which say that some Dutch people use the gas at a rate of up to 50 capsules per day for a long time. It is possible to buy nitrous oxide capsules online or from some supermarkets, in addition to all the specialized stores that have appeared recently.

 

Banning Calls

The Netherlands announced on November 14 that it will ban, as of January 1, 2023, the possession or sale of nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas, which is used by many young people during celebrations or social events, despite its risks.

The Dutch Ministries of Justice and Health announced in a joint statement that the ban on nitrogen oxide will enter into force on January 1, 2023, as it will be included, starting from this date, on the second list of the law on opium, which means that its sale or possession will be prohibited.

Occupational use of nitrogen oxide remains permissible in medical or food settings.

This gas is used as a pain reliever in medicine, but it is also used for its psychological effects in the short term, within a period not exceeding three to four minutes, when inhaled, especially by inflated rubber balloons.

Inhaling this gas may lead to suffocation or loss of consciousness, in addition to burns. Also, if it is used repeatedly or in strong doses, it may result in nervous, blood, psychological, and heart disorders.

“The recreational use of nitrogen oxide poses enormous health risks,” said Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport Maarten van Ooijen.

The Dutch public channel NOS pointed out that the use of laughing gas was detected in 63 incidents that led to deaths in recent years, according to police figures.

 


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References:

1

Ballooning use of laughing gas in Europe is no joke, drugs agency says

2

“Laughing gas” invades the streets of the Netherlands and raises the concerns of the authorities [Arabic]

3

European Center: Increased use of laughing gas is no joke [Arabic]

4

Nitrous oxide: neurologists report a worrying rise in young people with paralysis

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addiction dangers drug europe laughing gas nitrous oxide