UK Bans Laughing Gas

Following the Netherlands’ lead, the UK has now banned the party drug known as laughing gas. In January, the Netherlands became the world’s first country to prohibit the recreational use of nitrous oxide. This decision was prompted by a concerning statistic: over three years, the country recorded 1,800 car accidents linked to nitrous oxide use, which tragically led to several deaths.

Those caught using it for recreational purposes could now be subject to a maximum prison sentence of two years, and those selling it may face an extended sentence from seven to 14 years.

This recent legislation comes in the wake of two government-led reviews, both concluding that the substance did not pose sufficient risks to warrant a ban.

Nitrous oxide serves legitimate purposes in the catering industry, such as whipping cream, and as a pain relief method in medical and dental practices. However, until this week, it was also prevalent as a recreational substance among individuals of all ages in the vicinity of clubs and bars.

Those with firsthand experience of this party drug highlight a multitude of health risks it poses. While it provides a brief 90-second high, repeated misuse can result in nerve damage, vision impairment, and various other health complications.

Remarkably, it is the second most abused substance among individuals aged 18 to 24 throughout the nation.

The government’s prohibition, however, is part of an initiative aimed at addressing issues related to anti-social behavior and littering. Streets have become cluttered with discarded canisters, which have reportedly contributed to road accidents as drivers and cyclists swerve to avoid them.

When the ban was announced in September, the Home Secretary expressed concerns about “yobs” misusing public spaces and leaving behind a deplorable mess for others to clean up.

Critics argue that the government has expedited this legislation to gain political advantages in anticipation of an upcoming election year.

A prominent neurologist specializing in the abuse of nitrous oxide, Dr. David Nicholl, voiced his apprehension, stating, “I am genuinely concerned that criminalizing users may deter individuals experiencing side effects from seeking medical advice. This is an already marginalized community, often hesitant to consult with healthcare professionals, and the illegality of use may make them even more reluctant.”

Other critics include former UK government drug advisor and founder of “Drug Science”, Professor David Nutt says

He emphasized that many medical experts believe that nitrous oxide should have been addressed as a public health concern rather than an opportunity to criminalize young individuals.

Drug Science goes on to state “Over the past 20 years around two deaths per year have been reported as involving nitrous oxide, whereas thousands of deaths are reported for alcohol. And while deaths related to the use of cocaine, fentanyl and heroin have thankfully begun to dip from recent record levels, the number of people losing their lives to these drugs remains shocking.

These are the real and pressing problems the UK faces with drugs. The way to address them is by following the evidence and building policy on facts. And we call on ministers — and successive governments — to do so.”

If you feel that yourself or someone you know has a problem with nitrous oxide or any other substance, you can find a list of English-speaking healthcare professionals in the ESHA Spain business directory 

Further reading

Nitrous Oxide Harm Assesment/UK Gov 

Alcohol-specific deaths UK

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