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Nitrous oxide: Doctors warn of “epidemic” of use by young people

BMJ 2022; 378 doi: (Published 05 September 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;378:o2155
  1. Zainab Hussain
  1. The BMJ

Doctors have warned that they are seeing a rise in neurological complications among young people as a result of use of nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas.

Nitrous oxide has become an increasingly popular recreational drug at festivals, nightclubs, and parties. Used to induce laughter and hallucinations, the gas is not illegal to possess and can be purchased online in the small silver canisters known as “whippits.”

Doctors are concerned after seeing more users presenting neurological complications after inhaling often from large canisters of the gas, usually 80 times the size of whippits.

David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist and clinical lead at Birmingham City Hospital, who has shared a Tiktok video about recreational use of nitrous oxide,1 said, “In the last 20 years, a consultant would maybe see one or two cases, but then it started picking up in …

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