There have been several media reports suggesting that the Home Secretary Priti Patel has asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to review the harm caused by nitrous oxide, and is prepared to take “tough action” and introduce further restrictions.
Dr Alastair Noyce of Queen Mary University of London’s Preventive Neurology Unit at the Wolfson Institute of Population Health and a Consultant Neurologist at Barts Health NHS Trust, said:
“It is not correct to imply that laughing gas is a harmless drug – we’re seeing lots of cases in hospitals where young people have been badly damaged after excessive use, in some cases irreversibly. We tend to see people when they have damaged their spine or nerves through excessive use and can no long walk properly. But there is also a hidden burden of disease flying under the radar with bladder and bowel problems and sexual dysfunction in many more young people.
“However, criminalising nitrous oxide is not the answer. We need to better understand patterns of use and gather more hard evidence on the scale of harm through research. From there, health messages can be tailored appropriately based on robust evidence and informed dialogue with users.”