A doctor has predicted that there will be a rise in deaths linked to nitrous oxide as the ‘hippy crack’ craze intensifies among teenagers.

The misuse of nitrous oxide has been blamed for 17 deaths in the UK in recent years, with experts warning of the dangers and suggesting if trends continue the legal-high will kill many more people.

Stars Caught Inhaling Laughing Gas

Nitrous Oxide’s increased use, usually being inhaled through balloons, may be partly to blame due to popular public figures being exposed as laughing gas misusers. For example Liverpool and England Footballer, Raheem Sterling was caught on video this month inhaling nitrous oxide, with Aston Villa player, Jack Grealish being caught in a similar fashion soon after.

In the same month EastEnders actress Lorna Fitzgerald was seen inhaling from a balloon outside a night club in South London. The newspaper that caught the 19-year-old actress in the act, who plays Abi Branning in the soap, suggested that the substance was most likely to be ‘hippy crack’.

The tabloid also stated that she had allegedly bought four balloons filled with nitrous oxide for £10 from a street dealer in the early hours of the morning, featuring pictures that seem to confirm the substance misuse.

It is not illegal to be in possession of nitrous oxide, but when people are in the public eye and may be seen as role models in many young people’s eyes, it could be providing a toxic impression for them to emulate.

Dangers of Nitrous Oxide

Abusing the gas can lead to oxygen deprivation resulting in loss of blood pressure, fainting and even heart attacks. Doctor Paul Seddon, respiratory consultant and neonatal paediatrician at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton said nitrous oxide poses a significant risk to teenagers.

Dr Seddon conducted a study that reveals 7.6 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds in England and Wales admit to having tried balloons containing nitrous oxide, which he suggested are widely available in shops that sell legal highs. He said: “There’s evidence that its use has mushroomed over the past few years.”

He also explained some of the long-term negative effects of the abuse of laughing gas saying: “What’s little-known is that long-term use can result in all sorts of severe complications, such as causing problems to the nervous system.”

Explosion in Recreational Use of Nitrous Oxide

The gas does have legitimate uses such as pain relief in dental procedures and during labour, in engines to boost their performance and in aerosol cans to prevent food going off. Dr Seddon added: “Clearly the shops that sell legal highs are not selling it for use in confectionery… it is something of a grey area, but there has certainly been an explosion in recreational use and is something that both paediatrics and the general public need to be aware of.”

Legal highs of all kinds, not just nitrous oxide, are becoming an increasing problem among young people. The use of legal highs can be difficult to detect as they often change formulas when they are deemed to be illegal, to stay ahead of the law. However, it is often possible to detect whether a substance or similar substance is present during drug testing by analysing the main structure of the substance, which often remains the same.

Because of this AlphaBiolabs are able to test for the misuse of some legal highs, many synthetic forms of drugs and also the metabolites that they become when absorbed within the body. Unfortunately it would be impossible to stay up to date with every single legal high on the market, with new drugs emerging so frequently – coupled with little knowledge of their existence during their infancy.

This does not mean to say that you are helpless if you feel someone close to you may be misusing drugs or legal highs. Our ‘drugs we test for’ page provides more information on what drugs we can test for, but it would also be worthwhile contacting our support team on 0333 600 1300 or to ask whether we can test for a particular substance, as we are continuously expanding the services we provide and may be able to provide you with the answers you require. Furthermore, AlphaBiolabs also have toxicology specialists at hand to provide expert advice on drug testing so we will be able to point you in the right direction in a multitude of cases regarding drug misuse.