Laughing gas or “proto”, the new over-the-counter alternative drug!

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At some student parties, nitrous oxide is used as laughing gas. This dangerous practice causes neurological damage, both immediate and long term. Focus!

Laughing gas: what is it?

Also called nitrous oxide of nitrogen (molecule: N2O), laughing gas is odorless with a faint metallic taste.

Discovered around 300 years ago, this gas is used for rocket propulsion and increasing engine power. It also has anesthetic and analgesic properties.

It is used for example in the food sector to propel whipped cream (inserted into the siphon).

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Misuse of laughing gas

In France, laughing gas is legally available over the counter and therefore accessible to everyone.

At student parties, the gas is often transferred into balloons to be sucked in through the mouth. The desired effect is euphoria comparable to drunkenness, giggles, voice changes, visual and auditory distortions… the effects last between 30 seconds and 4 minutes.

What are the consequences ?

This diverted use of laughing gas can cause serious disorders as well as dependence with sometimes fatal risks!

  • Risk of cold burns: Very cold, the gas inhaled directly from the cartridge can expose you to great risk of frostbite of the nose, lips and vocal cords.
  • Lack of oxygen: Cartridges contain concentrated nitrous oxide. Repeated inhalations can therefore cause death by asphyxiation.
  • Risk of loss of consciousness: Loss of consciousness can, for example, be followed by a serious fall, with risk of fracture(s), trauma(s), etc.

This gas can cause undesirable effects which generally disappear 15 minutes after stopping inhalation. They can sometimes persist for a few hours or even a few days, depending on the dose consumed. We can cite :

  • Loss of cough reflex
  • disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Risk of falling
  • Tinnitus
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness

In high doses, its consumption can also cause:

  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Difficulty speaking and coordinating movements
  • Muscular weakness
  • Slow or irregular heartbeat.
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Anemia
  • Memory loss
  • erectile dysfunction
  • Mood disorders and paranoia
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Heart rhythm disorders
  • Drop in blood pressure

Laughing gas: can we be addicted to it?

The existence of an addiction to nitrous oxide is not unanimous. On the other hand, the low cost of the product and the fairly rapid disappearance of the desired effects can lead to excessive consumption.

Like any habit, stopping nitrous oxide can cause anxiety, restlessness, abdominal pain and tremors.

What to do in an emergency ?

If you or someone you know experiences any of the symptoms mentioned above, contact the emergency services immediately.

You can also call the national remote help service Drugs Info Service on 0 800 23 13 13, from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. (free call from a landline) or consult his website for more info.

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