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Nitrous oxide is illegal: ‘Nitrous oxide addiction almost killed my son – he is currently serving a prison sentence’


A mother has called on the Government to do more to tackle laughing gas as her son’s use spiraled into addiction, before sending him behind bars.

Last week it was announced that nitrous oxide would be made illegal by the end of the year, with the Commons set to debate amending the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Kath’s son, Sam*, began using gas socially at the age of 17 and turned to the substance after a series of family bereavements, the mother says.

At the time, Sam had his whole life ahead of him, he was “bright and healthy” and a keen footballer who was undertaking an engineering apprenticeship. His use increased rapidly over the past 12 months and he began using the substance every day, Kath adds.

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Kath, 48, from South Wirral said: “It’s horrible, as a mother I was waiting for a phone call to tell me he had died.

“The person he became was not my son. Four months ago we found him and he had consumed so much he couldn’t talk or walk, we had to drag him out of the house he was in and bring him home.

“He would probably be dead in six months. Its usage was so high.

Worried mother found son surrounded by fire extinguisher-sized canisters (file photo)

(PA wire)

The mother explains that her boy could no longer continue his learning because the vitamin B12 deficiency he had developed prevented him from getting out of bed or functioning normally in society.

A vital vitamin for nerve function, B12 allows myelin, the insulating layer protecting the brain and spinal cord, to function, explained neurologist David Nicholl.

When people inhale NOS, they are temporarily deprived of oxygen, leading to a loss of B12.

On one occasion, Kath called the emergency services in desperation after finding her son “out of it” and surrounded by “fire extinguisher-sized” cans and wine bottles.

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Sam, now 24, is serving a three-year prison sentence for possessing 48,000 nitrous oxide cartridges.

Laughing gas canisters thrown into a street in Leicester (Alex Hannam/Alamy/PA)

According to Kath, her son used it every day and she noticed the first warning signs: he was difficult to engage in conversation, he acted erratically and had problems with short-term memory.

“He was suffering from a lot of relationship breakdowns, we barely saw him and he wasn’t taking care of himself properly and he couldn’t get out of bed because of his vitamin B12 deficiency,” she said. “He vomited every day, suffered from psychotic episodes and felt tingling in his limbs.”

Kath argues that a better solution would be to talk with suppliers to make the substance less dangerous.

She suspects her son also suffers from a mental health issue, but says that when professionals recognized he had substance abuse, they didn’t look at secondary issues.

Dr David Nicholl is a neurologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and is inundated with patients who have taken laughing gas. He says it can have serious effects, whether it’s a one-time inhalation or repeated excessive drinking.

“It’s taking over my life,” he said. “It’s an epidemic. This didn’t exist before 2020, now every week we get one or two patients a week – it’s even worse now in the summer.”

He notes the main symptoms as numbness, difficulty walking, anxiety and mood changes. Inhaling gas can even lead to blood clots in the lungs and brain, the doctor explains.

Dr Nicholl agrees that criminalization will further stigmatize use and could prevent users from engaging with healthcare professionals. He argues that police should instead target suppliers.

“This proposed user ban won’t help at all,” he said. “Patients feel a sense of shame and embarrassment due to the language used. Because it’s called laughing gas, people think it’s a joke.”

Dr. Nicholl shared a shocking case in which his colleague treated a patient who became blind due to increased intracranial pressure caused by inhaling NOS..

He added that side effects don’t always appear immediately and can appear weeks later, meaning patients don’t always associate their symptoms with bloating.

Most of the patients he treats are young adults in their 20s, but he has seen children as young as 14 hospitalized.

“I hate this stuff, but how does criminalizing the problem solve it? ” He asked. “Police should target stores and sellers.”

Announcing the planned ban last week, Crime and Policing Minister Chris Philp said: “We cannot allow young people to think there are no consequences for misusing drugs .

“There is no doubt that the abuse of laughing gas is dangerous to our health and it is essential that we take decisive action before the situation worsens.

“Not only are we making possession a first-time offense, but we are also doubling the maximum sentence for supply to 14 years, so that dealers who profit from this trade have nowhere to hide. »

*names have been changed

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