When you think of nitrous oxide, you probably think of the dentist’s office. The gas is commonly called laughing gas, and it’s certainly got medical applications.
But people, as people do, have begun to use nitrous oxide recreationally. This actually causes dozens of deaths each year. Is laughing gas addictive? What are the risks of nitrous oxide abuse? Read on to find out more about this readily available substance.
Is Nitrous Oxide Addictive?
Nitrous oxide is not, by definition, an addictive drug. It does not meet the qualifications to be classified as addictive. In short, people who use nitrous oxide do not participate in compulsive drug-seeking behaviors.
However, nitrous oxide can be psychologically addictive. Psychological addiction to nitrous oxide is just as dangerous as a physical addiction; those who use it become mentally dependent on the gas.
Nitrous oxide isn’t as addictive as, say, methamphetamine or even codeine (see Codeine Linctus and Codeine Withdrawal). But dependency can certainly develop. Nitrous oxide, as mentioned, is readily available. Of course, it’s available at the doctor’s office. But it can also be purchased from gourmet food stores, as it’s a propellant used in food processing.
There are currently no restrictions on who can buy nitrous oxide, and in what quantity. However, in most nations it’s illegal to purchase “pure” nitrous oxide. Some states in the US ban sales to minors. In the UK, the recreational use of nitrous oxide is legal.
How Quickly Does Laughing Gas Addiction Develop?
As mentioned, nitrous oxide isn’t addictive. However, as with many other substances, the body can develop a tolerance to laughing gas. A user will require more and more laughing gas to achieve the same high. Some consider this tolerance a laughing gas addiction.
How quickly does a laughing gas addiction develop? There are a lot of factors which will influence this. There have been studies conducted which conclude that some people have “addictive personalities.” That doesn’t mean that you become addicted to these people’s personalities. It just means that they’re more prone to addiction.
Because nitrous oxide isn’t categorized as an addictive drug, very little research has been conducted as to how long it takes to develop an addiction. It’s clear, though, that it will vary from person to person.
Nitrous Oxide Drug Nicknames
Nitrous oxide isn’t the most commonly used drugs. But there are still nitrous oxide drug nicknames that you might hear. Nitrous oxide is referred to as:
- Buzz bomb
- NOX (when referring to the use of nitrous oxide)
- Laughing gas
- Shoot the breeze (again, referring to the use)
Nitrous Oxide Drug Side Effects
There are both positive and negative nitrous oxide drug side effects. When a user inhales nitrous oxide, he or she will reach a sense of euphoria very quickly. They may feel giddy, even excessively so. And nitrous oxide tends to have hallucinogenic effects. The user will experience “abstract experiences.”
On a more negative note, though, laughing gas has some very dangerous side effects. After using nitrous oxide, it’s not uncommon to experience a complete loss of motor functions. This can be extremely dangerous, and even deadly. Loss of inhibitions is also likely and can lead to reckless behavior.
nitrous oxide will cause a feeling of dissociation. Signals from the brain are blocked, and this can cause memory loss, dream-like states and even trances. Breathing will slow, which is also dangerous. Slowed breathing in conjunction with dizziness and unconsciousness can be fatal.
Laughing Gas Dangers
One of the most obvious laughing gas dangers is the way it interferes with your respiratory system. People have died due to lack of oxygen when using nitrous oxide.
A less obvious risk is how quickly it works. The effects are almost immediate, and only last a few minutes. It’s for this reason that people use nitrous oxide repeatedly, often with one “hit” right after another.
Deliberately causing the body to shut down into unconsciousness is dangerous. Even the most brief incidents of oxygen loss to the brain can cause brain damage and damage to the central nervous system.
Can You Die from Laughing Gas?
Yes. You can die from laughing gas. It’s possible to slow the respiratory system so much that it becomes fatal. It can also cause brain damage, and a host of other problems.
One of the biggest risks of death from laughing gas is from inexperienced users. Nitrous oxide is frequently sold on the street in small silver canisters, which are broken open and inhaled. Of course, nitrous oxide is a gas, and therefore invisible. As a result, there have been reports of users inhaling what they believed to be nitrous oxide.
Additionally, the risk of asphyxiation is very real. Over a dozen people die each year from suffocation caused by laughing gas. That number may seem small as compared to, for instance, cocaine overdose or heroin addiction.
Overdose of Whippets
Back in 2012, Demi Moore made the news. She was hospitalized after using whipped cream containers filled with nitrous oxide. She was brought to the hospital in a semi-conscious state after having experienced stroke-like symptoms. She’d overdosed on whippets.
Overdose of whippets and overdose on nitrous oxide are the same thing, and they will have the same effects on your body. Research refers to the effects on the brain as “dark holes”, areas where brain cells have been destroyed.
Whippet abuse and nitrous oxide use can also cause other symptoms during use and overdose. Users may first feel nauseous, then vomit. The gas can lead to a B-12 deficiency, which can cause numbness in the extremities.
In severe cases of abuse and overdose, the lungs can actually collapse, causing suffocation. Blood vessels will hemorrhage in the lungs as well, and heart attacks, seizures and coma are common.
The risks of whippets are extremely severe, especially considering the short lived high they provide. Overdose is not uncommon, is sudden, and can be fatal.