Laughing gas is no laughing matter! In The Netherlands, the government will ban laughing gas starting 1st January 2023, amid growing concern about the risks it poses to health and road safety.
The possession and sale of laughing gas will be prohibited from next year, when the drug will be added to a list of prohibited substances, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport announced. People may continue to use the product in food preparation and as a preservative, as the gas is widely used in whipped cream sprayers.
“The recreational use of nitrous oxide leads to enormous health risks.”said State Secretary Maarten van Ooijen.
As per the road safety monitor TeamAlert, laughing gas has played a role in 1,800 accidents across the Netherlands over the past three years, including 63 that were fatal. “Almost two a day, figures that really shocked us,” Maartje Oosterink of TeamAlert told AD newspaper earlier this month.
Dilan Yesilgöz, the Minister of Justice, emphasised that the ban will help law enforcement to more effectively enforce issues related to the drug. “With the ban, the police will be able to take immediate action if someone has non-professional laughing gas in their possession and has balloons with gas bottles in their car. Hopefully we can prevent accidents,” Yesilgöz Said.
„The aim is to reduce the recreational use of the drug and limit supplies! Laughing gas can still be used for medical and technical reasons, as well as in the food industry.“the justice ministry said
Laughing gas will be placed on List II of the Opium Act. Police unions have welcomed the government’s decision.
Nitrous oxide, which is inhaled from a balloon that has been filled by a cylinder, has become increasingly common as a recreational drug. According to the Trimbos Institute, which studies drugs and mental health, almost 1 in 50 Dutch adults used laughing gas in 2020. The growing use of the substance also happens by 12- to 14-year-olds, who do not see it as a “real drug” and are unaware of the risks, highlights the institute. There are significant concerns about how the depressant-like medicine affects the brain and how the body reacts to it. Regular heavy use might also result in a vitamin deficit, which can harm nerves permanently and leave you paralysed.
Concerns about the growing popularity of the drug goes beyond the Netherlands. In England, the most commonly misused substance after cannabis, among 16- to 24-year-olds, is nitrous oxide. Last month, the UK Home Office faced calls to ban all direct consumer sales of the gas, over concerns about its misuse. In Australia supply of nitrous oxide for recreational purposes is illegal and can result in a two-year period of imprisonment.