The use of laughing gas has risen sharply in recent years among young people and partygoers. It is a product that has had many applications over the years: in the food industry in whipped cream dispensers, in motorsport to increase the combustion power of engines and in medicine to put patients under anesthesia.
Today it is used by dentists and ambulances as a short-acting pain reliever. In recent years, nitrous oxide has become very popular as an intoxication agent, partly because it can be obtained easily and legally. However, frequent use can be harmful to the brain and, if used excessively, can even lead to paralysis.
What is laughing gas
Nitrous oxide is a sweet-smelling and sweet-tasting gas that is primarily used for medicinal purposes in the form of an anesthetic. The active ingredient in nitrous oxide is n2o, that for di-nitric oxide state. The combination of nitrogen and oxygen results in a suppression of consciousness and can also have an analgesic and anxiety-reducing effect.
Laughing gas is often taken recreationally through a balloon. The balloon is filled with a whipped cream syringe or tank and then it is inhaled from the balloon. Many users don't even think of laughing gas as a drug because it can be obtained legally. This allows even children to purchase laughing gas cartridges.
What does it do to you?
When the gas enters your body, it blocks the glutamate receptor in the brain, causing you to experience intoxication. Your perception changes: what you hear, see and feel overlap. Sounds can sound different, you can experience tingling and have fits of laughter. The latter explains the name.
Effects of nitrous oxide
The effect depends on the dose, but the intoxication generally lasts for a few seconds. However, effects can also last longer, which is especially dangerous when the gas is used in traffic. When you get too little oxygen in addition to the laughing gas, there is a chance that you will pass out.
How dangerous is it?
Nitrous oxide seems harmless, but this is certainly not it. With daily use can cause neurological damage. With extreme and long-term use, the risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency arises. With a shortage of B12, the body can give complaints such as:
- Numb fingers and toes
- Balance problems
- The loss of control over your movements.
These complaints can indicate nerve damage. In the long run, nitrous oxide can affect the spinal cord, leading to paralysis.
Nitrous oxide in traffic
Nitrous oxide is not only dangerous for yourself, but also for the people around you. Because you lose consciousness due to nitrous oxide, you also lose control of the wheel. More and more traffic accidents occur that are caused by the use of nitrous oxide. In 2016, 60 traffic accidents were caused by laughing gas behind the wheel. In 2017 there were 130 cases, 2018 in 380 and 2019 in the first half of 960. It is unclear how many of these incidents were fatal. It is clear, however, that a trend has emerged of nitrous oxide use behind the wheel.
Is It Addictive?
Nitrous oxide is not physical addictive, but can cause mental dependence. With regular use, habituation can occur, which means that you need more and more to achieve the same effects. Or you may not experience pleasure in certain situations without use. These signals may indicate a (developing) addiction.
What does nitrous oxide do to your body?
Nitrous oxide provides a brief psychedelic buzz. You get dizzy and get the feeling that you are starting to sink. In some cases you can also experience laughter.
What's in laughing gas?
Nitrous oxide contains nitric oxide. The combination of this substance with oxygen suppresses your consciousness and makes you feel as if you are sinking. You may feel like you are in a bubble.
How long does nitrous oxide work?
The effect of nitrous oxide occurs after about 20 seconds and can last for several minutes.
How harmful is laughing gas?
With frequent and extreme use, you can get a vitamin B12 deficiency in the long term. This can cause nerve damage that can be characterized by complaints such as: balance problems, tingling, numb fingers and loss of control over movements. In severe cases, it can even lead to paralysis because the spinal cord is affected.
Is laughing gas prohibited?
The sale, possession, trade and use of nitrous oxide is not prohibited. However, there are already legislative proposals to ban nitrous oxide because of the dangers that its use entails.