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Laughing gas to be banned in the Netherlands — weed is still cool

Nov 16, 2022 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
View the original article here.

Growing use of nitrous oxide, particularly among youth, no laughing matter

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The Netherlands, long associated with coffee houses that allow the sale of cannabis, pre-rolls, pot edibles and hash, has decided to nip another high-minded venture in the bud: youths using laughing gas recreationally.

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Although many believe cannabis is legal in the country, it is not. Indeed, it is against the law to “possess, sell or produce drugs,” notes the government.

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What the Netherlands has done is allow for designated spaces, the coffee houses, where weed-related products can be purchased and consumed legally. With 570 such establishments in 102 municipalities, this “is part of the Dutch policy of toleration” around soft drugs.

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  2. There has been a reduction of 24 per cent in young people reporting using drugs from 2018 to 2021.

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Laughing gas is not listed as either a soft or hard drug by the government, but it is a substance that is gaining a higher profile, and not for any good reason.

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That’s why starting this January, the Dutch government will ban the use of nitrous oxide “amid concerns over the health risks for the growing number of young people using it,” according to the BBC. Except for select uses, like for medical purposes and food industry use, it will be illegal to buy, sell or own the gas.

The Amsterdammer noted in an article earlier this year that “the Dutch Commodities Act permits the recreational use of laughing gas,” but added amendments to the Opium Act were in the works.

Before the planned change, it didn’t seem that difficult to get hold of laughing gas. Indeed, there was at least one online “provider” that offered tips on buying nitrous oxide cartridges “reliably, quickly and discreetly” in several cities. The company noted that it had partnered with several stores in the country to make buying seamless.

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Use of the gas, particularly among young people, in the Netherlands and elsewhere has become enough of an issue to get on police radar.

In June 2020, for example, two police community support officers in the U.K. looking for children believed to be inhaling nitrous oxide to get high didn’t find the gas, but did stumble upon a small garden growing cannabis.

A year earlier, police in North Lincolnshire, U.K. issued a warning about the potential dangers of inhaling laughing gas, including heart attack, loss of blood pressure, fainting, difficulty breathing, poisoning and, in extreme cases, death. “Risks increase if combined with alcohol and other drugs,” the alert noted.

The Guardian further reports that over an almost three-year period until October 2021 in the Netherland, there were just shy of 1,800 road accidents involving nitrous oxide, including 63 fatal collisions.

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A recent article in The Conversation noted that, in the U.K., neurology units “hardly ever encountered nos-related neurological problems a year ago,” but it certainly seems to be happening all over the country now.

Authors added that in the Netherlands, the Dutch Poisons Information Center reported in 2021 that its rate of such poisonings had increased alarmingly.

Citing the Crime Survey for England and Wales, laughing gas is the second most commonly used recreational drug after cannabis for 16- to 24-year-olds. This is despite the country outlawing the sale of the drug for recreational purposes back in 2016, per Express.

According to Medigold Health, when inhaled, the central nervous system depressant slows down the brain and body’s responses, which can produce short-term desirable effects like feelings of happiness, relaxation and euphoria.

But it “can also cause light-headedness, dizziness, nausea, severe headaches and temporary, but intense, feelings of paranoia, affect your coordination and stop you from thinking straight,” the information states.

Beyond that, “one of the main concerns surrounding nitrous oxide misuse is that people tend to use it alongside other substances, and because the effects are relatively short-lived, there is a risk of people frequently re-dosing and taking more than they intended,” it adds.

We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with feedback and story tips at thegrowthop@postmedia.com

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