Thursday, June 01, 2023
Web Desk

Exposure to laughing gas may fray nerves in adults, research shows

Web Desk
Capsules of nitrous oxide, also called laughing gas, are displayed on a table. — AFP/File
Capsules of nitrous oxide, also called "laughing gas", are displayed on a table. — AFP/File

A new study has revealed the damaging impact of laughing gas on young adults’ nerves, with the most common symptoms including pins and needles in the arms and legs, reported Independent.

The condition and symptoms emerge as the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves are damaged by inhaling the laughing gas.

The study — published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry — examined 119 adults who were admitted to the hospital due to neurological issues as a result of the gas.

The other symptoms of the gas — nitrous oxide — also include bladder and bowel difficulties, erectile dysfunction, poor balance and the sensation of an "electric shock" in the spine.

The research was carried out by the Queen Mary University of London in which the researchers examined adults with an average age of 22 who were treated in three different hospitals: London, Manchester and Birmingham, in 2022 after they used huge quantities of the drug.

The patients were also included 14 years of age with three-quarters of males inhaling between the equivalent of 318 and 2,800 canisters of laughing gas each week.

Who is affected most by laughing gas? 

The findings of the study suggested that young people harmed by nitrous oxide are most likely to be Asian men, adding that "they may have a genetic susceptibility to nerve damage caused by exposure to the gas."

"The predominance of cases with Asian ethnicity may highlight genetic, dietary, or nutritional predispositions to neurological damage from N2O exposure, but also may indicate social circumstances predicating use," the study highlighted.

Almost one in ten 16-24 year-olds have used laughing gas in 2022, making it the second most common drug used by the age group in the UK, after cannabis.

It is widely used as a pain reliever in humans and animals during childbirth or dental treatment, but it is increasingly being used as a recreational drug.

In March, the government announced its intention to ban laughing gas in a crackdown on anti-social behaviour, with plans to make it Class C dug before the end of 2023.