AUSTRALIA: While most medical professionals consider nitrous oxide safe, overexposure has been known to cause serious side effects.
Nitrous oxide is usually available as cartridges, called ‘nangs’ or in balloons as a filler gas. It is also used in food to aerate whipped cream and as a food additive. Medically, however, nitrous oxide, commonly known as ‘laughing gas’, is used to provide general anesthesia or sedation in dentistry and other medical professions.
Youngsters today are also using nitrous oxide in recreational activities, inhaling to provide a feeling of euphoria and happiness. These instances of overexposure can do more harm than good.
Medical and dental professionals in Australia are calling for limitations in the use of nitrous oxide for daily use. As part of a survey, reportedly 35% percent of people were recorded to be using nitrous oxide , as stated by the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) between 2003 to 2015.
By 2018 this percentage had increased to 50%, creating a greater cause for alarm.
According to Professor Shane Darke, NDARC, “If you’re in a medical situation and you’re being given nitrous oxide… it’s mixed with oxygen. These people aren’t doing that. What they’re doing is covering their faces and inhaling pure gas,”
Professor Darke also said that without the inhalation of oxygen with nitrous oxide, individuals run the risk of asphyxia.
“There have also been spontaneous deaths and suicides” he reiterated.
An increased intake of nitrous oxide can prevent the absorption of Vitamin B12, in most acute cases, the deficiency can be rectified by an intravenous infusion of Vitamin B 12. However, if the case is more severe, it’s most likely irreversible.
Current regulations shall not suffice
The Therapeutic Goods Administration called for a warning label to be put on all products containing nitrous oxide including directions for use. Western and Southern Australia placed designated age limits to purchasing such products. However, these current regulations are not enough to reduce the harm that nitrous oxide can cause in Australian society. A stricter set of regulations need to be placed in order to curb the diagnosis of complicated medical products in the young