Dutch to restrict sales of laughing gas, after surge in use among young clubbers

Laughing gas capsules dumped by the side of a road in Amsterdam. Photo: DutchNews.nl

The health ministry says it wants to make it more difficult for teenagers to buy laughing gas following a report by addiction clinic Trimbos on the rising use of the drug by youngsters.

Health minister Bruno Bruins wants retailers and wholesalers to bring in a voluntary age limit for the sale of laughing gas canisters, and to limit the number of canisters people can buy, the minister said in a briefing to MPs.

According to research by the Trimbos institute and Amsterdam University’s Bonger Institute, over 37% of Dutch party goers use laughing gas on a regular basis and that young adults are the most likely to do so.

However, there has been a sharp rise in the number of people aged 13 to 17 who use the gas. ‘It is often the first drug they use and that could lower the threshold [for others],’ said researcher Ton Nabben. ‘They don’t see it as a drug because you can easily buy it.’

Although laughing gas is relatively safe it is not without dangers and its long-term affects on children has not been researched, NOS said.

The Trimbos addiction clinic said in June it is aware of very few instances when people have gotten into difficulty using nitrous oxide but this is mainly when they have also been drinking too much.

However, the Guardian reported last year that according to Britain’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs there were five deaths in Britain in 2010 and one in 2011 related to its use.

‘These have been due to asphyxiation resulting from hypoxia (lack of oxygen). A number of the deaths involved the use of nitrous oxide in an enclosed space,’ ACMD chairman, Les Iversen, is quoted as saying.

Big business

This June, the Volkskrant reported that dozens of little companies have sprung up in the Netherlands selling and delivering laughing gas to party goers since courts ruled the gas should not be treated as a medicinal drug.

Chamber of Trade records show lots of new companies with names like Partygas and Lachgas Express who deliver nitrous oxide plus balloons to your home, the paper said.

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