– EN Fitness & Wellbeing – Young people and festival-goers are being warned over the health dangers of nitrous oxide.
The chemical compound, also known as laughing gas, hippy crack, nitrous, or noz, has many medical uses, especially in surgery and dentistry.
However, the euphoric effects upon inhaling it have led to people using it recreationally, and officials at the U.K.’s Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have now claimed there is still a lot of “naivety” surrounding the use of nitrous oxide.
“Despite the increasing use of nitrous oxide, particularly amongst younger people, far too few people know about the risks. It might give a short-term high but the long-term damage is no laughing matter,” RCN professional lead for mental health nursing, Catherine Gamble, said in a statement. “Along with the physical effects on the body, which themselves can be very serious, there are the psychological impacts associated with the abuse of any substance which can lead to addiction.”
According to RCN experts, when used as a recreational drug, nitrous oxide can cause chemical asphyxiation, potentially leading to death. This is as because when the body is starved of oxygen, it can cause swelling on the brain.
Yet, as the product has legal uses and is sold in catering shops in silver canisters to produce whipped cream, this makes its circulation harder to control following the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.
“When taken recreationally, it can cause euphoria and help people to feel more relaxed, sometimes becoming giggly or hallucinating,” added Roz Gittins, director of pharmacy at drug and alcohol charity Addaction. “There are, however, risks associated with its use and breathing problems may occur when large amounts of the gas is inhaled over a short amount of time or in an enclosed space if the person cannot breathe in enough oxygen. It may also cause burns due to coldness if inhaled directly from a canister or anaemia and nerve problems due to vitamin B12 deficiency associated with heavy use.”
Research suggests that there have been 17 fatalities related to the use of nitrous oxide in the U.K. between 2006 and 2012.