For me, this is an interesting juxtaposition of how a gaseous chemical, nitrous oxide a.k.a. laughing gas can be used successfully on animals in veterinary clinics to sedate them safely but which is abused by humans to the point where it harms them seriously.
It is an intersection between animals and humans with nitrous oxide joining the two species together with dramatically different effects on both.
Veterinarians use laughing gas to produce anxiety and pain; to calm animals down. Unlike a general anaesthetic, laughing gas leaves the body more quickly and has less adverse effects. The gas is administered through a mask and inhaled directly. It couldn’t be simpler. It is managed properly by veterinarians.
Laughing gas is also used sometimes by dentists to reduce anxiety and to calm down the patient. It doesn’t put them to sleep but it gives them a slightly light tingly sensation and a feeling of general numbness. The human becomes light headed but they can still communicate.
But in typical humanoid fashion, Homo sapiens tends to abuse drugs in an effort to remove themselves from planet Earth for a brief period of time, which is why young people of an average age of 22 sometimes inhale 2,800 canisters of laughing gas in a single week!
A study found that most regular users of laughing gas inhale the equivalent of 318 canisters each week. When they do this, they harm themselves very seriously. The study looked at 119 patients suffering from myeloneuropathy, nerve damage affecting the spinal cord and limbs.
They were treated at three hospitals in London, Birmingham and Manchester in 2022. The most common symptom of abusing laughing gas which affected 85% of the patients was pins and needles in the arms and legs caused by spinal cord and peripheral nerve damage.
There were other symptoms: bladder and bowel difficulties, erectile dysfunction, poor balance and the sensation of an electric shock in the spine!
It sounds absolutely horrendous. Nerve damage is very serious, very debilitating and it is life changing.
The research was carried out at Queen Mary University of London. They also found that more than 50% of those hospitalised for abusing laughing gas were of Asian ethnicity. This suggested that they may be more genetically susceptible to nerve damage from this drug.
Apparently, almost 10% of 16-24-year-olds have used nitrous oxide in the past year. It is the third most used drug after cannabis and cocaine.
It makes them feel more relaxed but prolonged use can cause vitamin B12 deficiency and as mentioned nerve damage.
The UK government is going to reclassify the drug as class C by the end of 2023 to try and curb its use.