Nitrous oxide: Experts warn that laughing gas ban might harm users

The proposed moratorium on nitrous oxide could prevent users from seeking medical care in hospitals, according to health experts.

In a letter to the government, viewed by sources, fifteen neurologists and other health professionals argue that possession of the substance should not be illegal.

Despite an increase in the number of hospital patients suffering from the effects of so-called laughing gas, they warn that the moratorium could exacerbate the stigma associated with users.

The government has responded, indicating that it will proceed with the prohibition.Nitrous oxide is typically packaged in metal canisters. It is one of the most frequently used substances by people aged 16 to 24 as per sources. 

Heavy use can result in nerve-related symptoms, such as inability to walk, twitching or loss of sensation in the feet and limbs, or falling over.

Some users suffer from nerve-related bladder or gastrointestinal dysfunction, erectile dysfunction, or incontinence. Currently, the distribution of nitrous oxide for recreational purposes is prohibited, but possession is not.

Earlier this year, the government proposed a change to the law, which could become effective before the end of the year, making possession of the substance illegal.

In a letter to the minister for policing, Chris Philp, the fifteen medical professionals argue that making possession of the substance illegal is unlikely to result in health benefits for their patients.

This is despite the fact that prominent physicians told sources they have witnessed an increase in nitrous oxide patients.

The author of the letter, Professor of Neurology and Neuroepidemiology Dr. Alastair Noyce, stated that the prohibition posed a risk of instilling "fear of a criminal record" in juvenile users. He explained that the patients may delay hospitalization when their symptoms are treatable which could result in long-term damage.

He stated that there was very little evidence that criminalization will lead to reductions in neurological harm and will impact the opportunities of people who are not in school or the workforce. 

The letter urged the government to sponsor a national education campaign in schools and the media to ensure the public is aware of the dangers associated with nitrous oxide abuse.

Those discovered in possession of the drug could face up to two years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both, according to the proposals. The government has begun public and expert consultations regarding the proposal.

Experts have previously stated that a moratorium on laughing gas would not prevent its use. A blanket prohibition, according to the Drug Science scientific charity, is completely disproportionate and would likely cause more harm than good.

Katherine Bramwell from South Wirral told sources that she knew nothing about nitrous oxide until her son became addicted. She claims that he had difficulty quitting the substance due to psychological dependence. 

The prohibition on the use of nitrous oxide will continue, according to a statement issued by the administration.

It asserted that it has created a "clear strategy" for the police to combat the misuse of this chemical in its anti-social behavior action plan. This strategy was directed toward the police.