Laughing gas is a colourless, odourless, slightly sweet tasting gas that is usually kept in gas bottles of various sizes. Laughing gas is a solvent and the active agent in it is dinitrogen monoxide (N2O), another name for laughing gas is Nitrous Oxide.
Laughing gas is available several forms, one being the medical form which is produced to be used as an anaesthetic and is therefore subject to pharmaceuticals law. A second, less pure form of laughing gas is for commercial use and is commonly used to tune engines. This less pure form may often contain other chemicals or gases such as methyl nitrate which can lead to oxygen deficiency in the human body. Laughing gas can also be purchased in cartridges that can be used to make whipped cream.
For recreational use, laughing gas is normally inhaled from a balloon which has been filled from a canister. Once inhaled the effects of the drug are felt within five to ten seconds and, depending how much has been inhaled, can last for anywhere between thirty seconds and four minutes. Ten to fifteen minutes after inhalation the high subsides, around an hour later laughing gas will have been completely eliminated from the body, long term effects remain.
Short-term side effects
The main risks of inhaling laughing gas are caused by the lack of oxygen being inhaled at the same time. This can lead to asphyxiation or loss of consciousness and subsequent brain and organ damage as a result of oxygen deficiency. Other associated side effects are exhaustion, dizziness and headaches and numbness and twitching of limbs.
Long-term side effects
When used regularly in medium to high doses, laughing gas can lead to nerve damage as it reduces the effectiveness of Vitamin B12 which normally helps protect the nerves. This damage may lead to motor disorders which cause tingling and numbness in the limbs. The use of laughing gas can cause long term damage to the brain cells if oxygen deficiency occurs too often while using it.
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In this section we aim to give you some basic information on common drugs of abuse, based on scientific research undertaken by NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, USA. The information outlines the effects of each drug, and their dangers.