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The Drug Advisory Panel Is Right, Don’t Ban Nitrous Oxide

Greg Devine



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I’m sure, if you’ve seen the news recently, you will be aware of what NOS is. For those who don’t know, Nitrous Oxide (NOS) is used by the food industry as a propellant for such as whipped cream. It’s also used in medical settings for sedation and pain relief.


It’s used by some, however, as a recreational drug.


When inhaled, usually through a balloon, it gives the user a brief buzz. When compared with other drugs, NOS is considerably more dangerous. Regular use can prevent the body from producing white blood cells, which can have a negative impact on the individual’s immune system.


I’m very open to the legalisation of drugs—I think many should be available for controlled purchase. I must admit, though, I find NOS incredibly scary.


You hear horror stories all the time—especially where I am, at university—where people have become very ill from using NOS, or balloons, as they’re more commonly known. NOS can give you ‘popcorn lung’, and I’ve even heard of people sadly dying, due to bleeds on their brains after they’ve inhaled the gas. Despite this, I believe that the advisory panel is right not to ban NOS. First of all, industries still need to use it. Restaurants still need whipped cream, and in certain medical situations, it can be beneficial—but more than anything, banning it would be a backwards step. What I mean by that is, if NOS was to be banned, the chances of other recreational drugs being legalised becomes even less likely. I’ve written before about cannabis, and how its legalisation would be a positive change for the country. The drug would become regulated, which would make it safer for users. It would also create a new industry, which is a positive thing for our economy, given its current state.


I do have an issue with how NOS is currently sold. You can get it at various corner shops, often without any ID stipulations. It even comes with a complimentary pack of balloons! I think you should be 18 to purchase it, same as a pack of cigarettes or a pint of beer. It’s technically illegal to sell NOS under the Psychoactive Substances Act, but that’s a law that’s essentially pointless—at least, in my opinion. Should the Home Office get its wish to ban NOS outright, the drug will just be sent underground. People will still purchase it, just through a street dealer. At that point, there’s no guarantee of what you’re buying. Inhaling it is dangerous enough, but if NOS is only sold underground, there’s no way to know if it’s been tampered with, which would make it even more dangerous.


The issue is, the Government and most of the UK aren’t on the same page as me. Most people in their thirties and older are petrified at the thought of recreational drugs. Yet alcohol is far worse for you than drugs such as cannabis—both in terms of your health and the safety of others. If you had a room full of drunk people and they had a disagreement, they’d end up fighting, and some people could get seriously hurt. If these people were ‘stoners’, I could practically guarantee that not one punch would be thrown, and not one person would be hurt through violence. Still, people remain terrified. You can buy cigarettes that are solely detrimental to your health, but if the powers-that-be were to ban those, people would be outraged.


The Drug Advisory Panel rejecting calls to ban NOS is correct. Yes, NOS is dangerous, but banning it will only make things worse. Sending it underground would generate more crime and compromise the safety of the public. I hope this stand from the panel creates a discussion about how the UK handles recreational drugs, because we currently seem to be going backwards.


It's time to invest in some proper research into this su7bject instead of scaremongering the public into thinking all drugs are bad. Newsflash: not all of them are.

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