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Nitrous oxide has several diverse yet legitimate uses. It is employed in various ways; as an anesthetic, as part of the preparation of whipped cream and as a turbo boost for car engines. However, a subculture has grown around nitrous, which has led to it becoming a quick high for a subsection of adolescents and young adults. The gas is inhaled from canisters and can produce several effects, including sound distortion and euphoria.


Nitrous inhalation can cause very harmful effects in the long term, something about which most users are unaware. This lack of knowledge may be a result of the non-inclusion of information about nitrous in most drug education programs.

The high that nitrous provides comes about as a result of oxygen deprivation. After inhalation, the user might experience relaxation, loss of balance, speech difficulties, irrational thinking and perhaps even unconsciousness. These states can lead to injury as a result of falls or concussions.

The oxygen deprivation that is caused by nitrous oxide inhalation can have serious side-effects. It is possible to be asphyxiated if the oxygen supply is cut off due to an excess of nitrous in the lungs. This can cause death if allowed to continue, especially if inhalation is repeated. Pretty scary, considering the relative ease with which the drug can be obtained.

Some dealers sell small balloons filled with nitrous at parties and raves in order to turn a profit, however, the drug can also be purchased legally: whipped-cream rechargers are sold in many hardware and grocery stores and also online.


Some American states have brought in legal penalties in order to combat the spread of nitrous use. In Ohio, one could be faced with a $2,500 fine and up to a year in prison if found to be in possession of the gas. If it is proven that one intends to sell the gas, one could be faced with a fine worth double this amount and a prison sentence of up to 18 months.

However, this approach is limited in its scope, given that there is only punishment and no prevention or education when it comes to nitrous oxide abuse. It is necessary to add nitrous oxide to the list of harmful drugs about which children are educated and encouraged to avoid in schools and universities. The message needs to be clear, nitrous abuse can kill you.

Parents should also be made aware of the dangers of nitrous inhalation - and substance abuse in general. Most parents or guardians are unaware when it comes to the dangers of substance abuse, which highlights a need for increased availability of information.

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