A recent study has revealed that nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, can cause nerve damage in teenagers and young adults. The research encompassed 119 young individuals who were hospitalized due to neurological complications stemming from nitrous oxide usage.
The most prevalent symptom, reported by 85 percent of the participants, was a tingling sensation in their limbs. This was attributed to damage to their spinal cord and peripheral nerves. Additional symptoms reported included challenges with bladder and bowel control, erectile dysfunction, poor balance, and a sensation akin to an “electric shock” in the spine.
The study, carried out by Queen Mary University of London, assessed the effects of nitrous oxide on individuals averaging 22 years of age. These individuals were treated at three hospitals in London, Manchester, and Birmingham in 2022.
These patients had been consuming large quantities of the drug, with some being as young as 14 years old. The study also discovered that 75 percent of the participants were male, with their nitrous oxide inhalation ranging from 318 to 2,800 canisters per week.
Interestingly, the study discovered that young Asian men were the most at risk of harm from nitrous oxide usage, hinting at a potential genetic predisposition to nerve damage due to exposure to the gas.
The report mentioned that the high proportion of individuals of Asian descent among the affected could point to genetic, dietary, or nutritional factors contributing to neurological damage. Social circumstances influencing nitrous oxide usage were also considered.
Nitrous oxide is routinely used for pain management during childbirth or dental procedures in both humans and animals. However, it has gained increasing popularity as a recreational drug. In the UK, nearly one in ten people aged 16 to 24 have used nitrous oxide in the past year, making it the second most popular drug among this age group, after cannabis.