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  • Recreational use of nitrous oxide - or ‘laughing gas’ - has dangerous consequences, says addiction withdrawal expert
  • The drug can cause degeneration of the spinal cord which can lead to paralysis, warns Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Donald Masi
  • The substance will be categorised as a class C drug in the UK, and made illegal by the end of 2023

Laughing gas can cause paralysis, and people need to know how to seek medical help to stop using the substance, warns Priory expert Dr Donald Masi.

Nitrous oxide – more widely known as ‘laughing gas’ – will be categorised as a class C drug in the UK, and made illegal by the end of 2023, the government has announced.

Dr Masi, Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Roehampton, said: “Long term, heavy use of nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas, can seriously deplete your levels of vitamin B12, which is crucial for brain and spinal health. This can lead to degeneration of the spinal cord, and ultimately paralysis.

“People don’t tend to consider this as a risk factor, because nobody intends to become a long term or heavy user. It can seem like a bit of harmless fun, and the nickname ‘laughing gas’ adds to that idea. There is a short-term sense of euphoria.

“But even short term use is dangerous. The drug can displace oxygen in the lungs. People can experience light-headedness, feeling faint and tingling in their feet and hands which are short-lived. But if people are very light headed and faint, they can collapse and cause injury.

“Addiction creeps up on you, and so do the health risks. There is evidence that use of nitrous oxide can cause acute psychiatric difficulties.

“If you are regularly using the substance, it is really important to seek some help from a trained medical professional.”

The colourless gas, usually sold in small shiny pressurised aluminium canisters, is also frequently inhaled from larger bottles, some of which are up to 70 times stronger than canisters.

For medical support, people can contact their GP, call NHS 111, or contact Priory specialists for a free addiction assessment.

Priory is the UK’s leading independent provider of mental health and addiction services.




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About Priory

Priory is the UK’s leading independent provider of mental health services. We treat more than 70 conditions including depression, anxiety, addictions, and eating disorders, as well as children’s mental health, across our nationwide network of sites. We also support autistic adults and adults with a learning disability, Prader-Willi Syndrome and brain injuries, as well as older people, within our specialist residential care and supported living facilities– helping as many people as possible to live their lives.    

Priory is part of MEDIAN, one of Europe’s leading providers of high-quality mental health and rehabilitation services. Overall, there are facilities in the MEDIAN Group, comprising 290 Priory facilities with 5,000 beds in the United Kingdom caring for 28,000 people, and 120 facilities and 20,000 beds and therapy places in Germany, caring for around 230,000 patients, with more than 27,000 employees overall.     

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