Recreational use of nitrous oxide is a growing concern in Europe, the European Union Drugs Agency (EMCDDA) said on Monday, emphasizing the risk of poisoning, burns and damage to the nervous system.
“The rise in recreational use of nitrous oxide in some parts of Europe is a cause for concern,” said EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel.
“There is a general perception among users that inhaling nitrous oxide is safe.
“Nevertheless, we see that more frequent or greater use of the gas increases the risk of serious damage.”
Nitrous oxide has a variety of legitimate medical, industrial, commercial and scientific functions.
ALSO READ: “A Lot Fewer Drugs in Hollywood Now,” Say Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie
It is used as a food additive and as an anesthetic.
In recent years, it has also become more popular as a sedative that makes the user euphoric, the EU Drugs Agency said.
This is because it is readily available, cheap, and is widely considered to be “a relatively safe drug.”
“A profitable and expanding supply chain has developed, with specialized online stores promoting the gas directly for recreational use or offering it under the guise of its use in making whipped cream,” the study explained.
The heavy and frequent use of the gas has led to a “small but significant increase” in poisoning and other health problems since 2017.
ALSO READ: Three Decades After Pablo Escobar’s Death, Drugs Haunt Medellin
These range from damage to the nervous system (neurotoxicity) because nitrous oxide irreversibly inactivates vitamin B12 in the body, to severe frostbite from exposure to the freezing gas, to lung injuries from the high-pressure release of the gas from larger bottles.
The Netherlands has also seen a significant increase in car crashes involving users of the gas, the report said.
‘It is therefore important to avoid normalizing and inadvertently promoting its use,’ stressed Goosdeel.