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Laughing gas - new dangerous fad among teenagers

Photo: pexels

A few moments of hallucinogenic experience and euphoria in the company of other teenagers, followed by repetitive use. Inhaling laughing gas has become a fad for many teenagers. But it turns out that what they are doing is not harmless.

Ombudsman Diana Kovacheva has called for urgent measures against the sale of balloons with nitrous oxide. This is a regular practice in clubs and at parties and many teenagers have already been harmed, she pointed out, recommending legislative changes to limit the spread.

This cheap and accessible gas can lead not only to stays in the hospital, but also to permanent neurological damage, anesthesiologist Dr. Yasen Grozev warns. What actually happens to the human body under the influence of dinitrogen oxide (N2O)?

"In medicine it is used to support the administration of general anesthesia,” the doctor says. “But these are controlled moments and the supply of oxygen is absolutely mandatory. There is no option to breathe only laughing gas. Often during teenage parties, pure gas is inhaled and hypoxia sets in. This is low oxygen level in our body, leading to severe suffering of all tissues, because suddenly oxygen that gives us life is gone, even though this is only for a short time. It is possible to inhale too large volumes and completely displace oxygen. We generally inhale about 21% oxygen.”

When there is a total lack of oxygen in the body, the neural tissue becomes affected as there is little possibility for regeneration. "Every organ is affected, especially in cases of extreme use," Dr. Yasen Grozev says. He adds that it is a misconception that inhaling laughing gas from time to time does not pose a serious risk. For example, it can lead to long-term damage in the hematopoietic system and as a final result the patient loses coordination, the ability to stand upright, and walk straight.

Laughing gas is sold legally and delivery is also lightning-fast. At the same time, there is no control by the police or the health authorities.

Plovdiv is one of the cities, where empty canisters of laughing gas can be seen in parks and other public places. That is why specialists at the Municipal Council on Narcotic Substances have taken up the task of explaining to parents the symptoms and harms of the use of narcotic and psychoactive substances, including laughing gas. During the new school year they will hold lectures in schools, too.

"Nitrous oxide is much more toxic if it is combined with alcohol or with other narcotic and psychoactive substances, including energy drinks, which are loved by many young people,” psychologist Daniela Dimitrova, who works on the program of the Plovdiv Municipality says. “When the gas is inhaled directly from the capsule instead of a balloon, its effect is much stronger. Additionally, these capsules are often cheap and unregulated imports from China. They have been found to contain dust particles and oily residues that are absent from those purchased from reputable sources for use in medicine or the food industry.”

Minister of Economy Kornelia Ninova announced that the Commission for Consumer Protection will start round-the-clock checks in discotheques, restaurants, bars, as well as in social networks for the online sale of laughing gas.

"When violations are found there will be a ban on sales and anyone who does not comply with this measure faces a fine of 13,000 euro. As we do not have a legal framework, I have asked the parliamentary group of BSP for Bulgaria to introduce a small amendment to the Child Protection Act that can save the lives of many children. In this way, laughing gas will be added to the text prohibiting the sale of cigarettes and alcohol to children."

Compiled by: Diana Tsankova /based on interviews by BNR-"Horizont" and BNR-Plovdiv/

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: vita.bg, freepik, pexels, BNR-Plovdiv, BGNES
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