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EU drug agency raises alarm: use of laughing gas in Europe is no joke

The recreational use of nitrous oxide, known as “laughing gas”, is on the rise in Europe among young people, resulting with worrying numbers of poisonings, the European Union drugs monitoring agency (EMCDDA) said in a study.

The popularity of the substance, which causes a feeling of euphoria, and relaxation is growing because of its universal availability, low price, ease of use and the general perception that it is safe, the agency said.

It has a legitimate and wide range of medical, industrial and commercial uses, particularly as a propellant in whipped cream dispensers or water siphons for which purpose it is sold in compact, inexpensive cartridges online or in supermarkets.

In some EU countries, the concerns are being raised since 2017, when larger amounts of the substance were sold targeting teenagers inexperienced with drug use.

The cartridges are usually consumed by filling balloons, from which the gas is inhaled, but more recently users have been inhaling directly from dispensers which is much more dangerous.

The use of the substance affects several brain and spinal cord networks.

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