PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING AGAINST NITROUS OXIDE USE
19 October 2022
Health and care partners in Coventry are warning younger residents of the dangerous and damaging effects of using nitrous oxide, more commonly known as ‘laughing gas’.
This follows an increase in hospitalisations in the city and healthcare professionals are growing increasingly concerned that the popularity of the drug is causing neurological complications, such as spinal cord and nerve damage. In the last five weeks, there has been five admissions, four of these patients were young men.
Patients admitted to hospital after using the drug are often young males and University students who are taking large quantities for social purposes due to it being cheap and readily available.
Nitrous oxide is most commonly inhaled from a balloon for its instantaneous depressant effects of calmness and light headedness. Shiny silver metal canisters are frequently emptied out into balloons, before the gas is inhaled from the balloon.
Coventry City Council Cabinet member for Public Health and Sport, Cllr Kamran Caan said: “It is absolutely terrifying to see and hear of young people being paralysed by ‘laughing gas’. Teenagers and young men may always think it happens to someone else and won’t happen to them, which is why it is so important that we work with our partners to raise awareness and spread the message that these life changing risks are not worth taking just because it is a cheap legal high.
“As a local authority we take these matters extremely seriously and there is a citywide Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO) in place that allows officers to confiscate and dispose of any nitrous cannisters. This allows people to be fined if they refuse to give up their nitrous once challenged. The PSPO also gives the powers to fine people in possession of them if caught.
“The law as it currently stands means individual possession of nitrous is not an offence, but, if you sell it or pass a balloon to someone else, that is a criminal offence. It is a complicated matter, but if we identify patterns and locations then Police patrols can look to address this. People can report to either the Police or the Council, online at: https://www.coventry.gov.uk/community-safety-crime/anti-social-behaviour.”
Consultant Neurologist at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust, Dr Holger Allroggen, who has admitted several young men with nitrous oxide neurotoxicity in the last two weeks, added: “We are increasingly worried about the risk of serious harm to the nervous system as a result of abusing nitrous oxide. It can affect both the spinal cord and the nerves in arms and legs resulting in loss of feeling, abnormal sensations, loss of motor function and therefore variable degrees of limb weakness right down to paralysis.
“Treatment may or may not work and the resulting damage can be permanent, with no clear relationship between quantities of nitrous oxide taken and neurological damage. This self-inflicted damage is completely avoidable by not using nitrous oxide.”
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