It’s no laugh­ing mat­ter...

NITROUS OX­IDE GAS CAN­IS­TERS LIT­TER­ING THE CAP­I­TAL’S PARKS AND STREETS

Uxbridge Gazette - - News - By QASIM PERACHA qasim.peracha@reach­plc.com @qasim­per­acha

IN re­cent years there has been a large in­crease in the num­ber of small, metal­lic gas can­is­ters lit­ter­ing the cap­i­tal’s streets and parks.

But what ex­actly are these can­is­ters and why are they there?

These small metal­lic bulbs con­tain nitrous ox­ide, also known as laugh­ing gas.

Used around the world by den­tists as anaes­the­sia, the gas is also used in the food in­dus­try, as an aerosol spray pro­pel­lant of­ten used in whipped cream cans.

That is why they are also known as “cream­ers”.

Nitrous ox­ide can also be used in en­gines to make them run more ef­fi­ciently, com­monly known as ‘NOS’ and pop­u­larised by the Fast and Fu­ri­ous movie fran­chise and video games like Need for Speed.

The gas as a drug is known un­der sev­eral other names too, in­clud­ing whip­pits, hip­pie crack and charg­ers, and is of­ten re­ferred to as ‘do­ing bal­loons.’

In­hal­ing nitrous ox­ide can have a eu­phoric ef­fect on a per­son, help­ing them feel re­laxed.

This is why it is used by den­tists as a means of gen­tly numb­ing pain, but it can also cause hal­lu­ci­na­tions.

The ex­act chem­i­cal ac­tion of the drug is still not clearly known, but it is a de­pres­sant, which means it slows down your brain and there­fore your body’s re­sponses.

As well as the numb­ness and re­lax­ation, it of­ten leaves the user un­able to think straight, caus­ing fits of laugh­ter, hence the name laugh­ing gas.

It can also lead to hal­lu­ci­na­tions in some peo­ple, while for oth­ers it can bring on a sud­den and im­me­di­ate headache.

Like all chem­i­cals that have an ef­fect on your body, nitrous ox­ide can be harm­ful.

Even if there are only the “de­sired ef­fects”, not be­ing able to think straight can lead to a lot of trou­ble as the user could act dan­ger­ously or reck­lessly and en­dan­ger them­selves or oth­ers.

The drug can even be fa­tal if the per­son ex­pe­ri­ences a lack of oxy­gen.

This hap­pens when all the oxy­gen is dis­placed by nitrous ox­ide. The risk of this is am­pli­fied if both the mouth and nose are cov­ered in a plas­tic bag breath­ing it in.

Heavy users can also suf­fer a vi­ta­min B12 de­fi­ciency or anaemia. Se­vere B12 de­fi­cien­cies cause nerve dam­age, par­tic­u­larly in ex­trem­i­ties and can de­press your im­mune sys­tem, slow­ing down new white blood cell creation.

There is also a risk of faint­ing when tak­ing the drug.

The risks of nitrous ox­ide mul­ti­ply if al­co­hol is also be­ing con­sumed. Some man­u­fac­tur­ers of the gas add sul­phur diox­ide, a poi­sonous gas, to dis­cour­age peo­ple from in­hal­ing the gas to get high.

It might be pos­si­ble to be­come phys­i­cally de­pen­dent on nitrous ox­ide.

Talk To Frank, a drugs helpline char­ity, says that although ev­i­dence on ad­dic­tion is not yet clear, some re­ports sug­gest peo­ple can crave the gas.

Nitrous ox­ide is a widely used gas in in­dus­try and medicine, which makes some peo­ple think it is le­gal.

This was the case un­til the Psy­choac­tive Sub­stances Act came into ef­fect in 2016, which made it il­le­gal to sup­ply or im­port nitrous ox­ide for hu­man con­sump­tion.

In ad­di­tion, just like many other drugs, driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of nitrous ox­ide is also a crime, if it can be proved that it has im­paired your driv­ing.

IM­AGE: PUB­LIC­ITY PIC­TURE

Nitrous ox­ide can also be used in tuned car en­gines

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