Nitrous oxide: Laughing gas ban could harm users, experts warn
Introduction: Health experts have expressed concerns that a proposed ban on nitrous oxide, commonly known as “laughing gas,” could deter users from seeking medical assistance when experiencing adverse effects. In a letter to the government, 15 neurologists and related health experts argue that criminalizing drug possession could exacerbate the stigma surrounding its use. Despite the rising number of hospital admissions due to nitrous oxide effects, the government has confirmed its intention to proceed with the ban.
Proposed Ban and Current Use: The UK government has proposed an amendment to the law that would criminalize the possession of nitrous oxide. The gas, often sold in metal canisters, is commonly used by individuals aged 16 to 24. While the supply of nitrous oxide for recreational use is already prohibited, possession remains legal.
Concerns Raised by Health Experts: Health experts warn that making possession illegal may discourage users from seeking medical help due to fears of criminal repercussions. They argue that criminalization is unlikely to lead to health benefits and could result in long-term harm due to delayed medical intervention. The experts emphasize that an education campaign targeting schools and the public could be more effective in raising awareness about the risks associated with nitrous oxide misuse.
Government Response and Public Views: The UK government has confirmed its commitment to proceeding with the ban on nitrous oxide. It plans to launch consultations with experts and the public to gather insights on the proposed ban. While some believe the ban could help curb drug misuse, others, including the Drug Science scientific charity, assert that a blanket ban could cause more harm than good.
Impact on Users and Communities: The proposal has generated discussions about the potential impact on users and communities. Some individuals have experienced the adverse effects of nitrous oxide firsthand, with concerns about its addictive nature and psychological dependence. Proponents of the ban believe it could provide more explicit legal guidelines and deter misuse.
Conclusion: The proposed ban on nitrous oxide possession has prompted health experts to express concerns about its potential impact on users seeking medical help. While the government intends to proceed with the ban, ongoing discussions highlight the need for a balanced approach that considers the health risks associated with nitrous oxide and the potential consequences of criminalization.