LIFESTYLE

Record Numbers Using Laughing Gas Balloons - How Dangerous Is Nitrous Oxide Really?

29/07/2014 10:16 BST | Updated 29/07/2014 10:59 BST

It would be easy to assume nitrous oxide - more commonly known as laughing gas - is pretty harmless. After all, its name does suggest it might be a gateway to fun.

The drug is legal and is used to numb pain during medical procedures such as dental work, but the latest figures show thousands of young people are using laughing gas recreationally.

So how dangerous is nitrous oxide really?

When inhaled, laughing gas can make people feel euphoric and relaxed, some people also experience hallucinations.

But, according to drug advisory website Talk To Frank, there is also a darker side to inhaling nitrous oxide.

"Nitrous oxide can cause dizziness or affect your judgement, which might make you act carelessly or dangerously and put you at risk of hurting yourself, particularly in an unsafe environment," reads the website.

At worst users risk falling unconscious or even death from lack of oxygen, vitamin B deficiency is also possible, which can cause serious nerve damage.

This risk is likely to be greater if the gas is consumed in an enclosed space or if a substantial amount is rapidly used.

Sold in balloons, inhaling laughing gas is becoming an increasingly popular recreational drug for young people.

laughing gas

The latest figures show 470,000 people between the ages of 16 and 24 are likely to have taken laughing gas last year - an increase of 100,000 from the previous year.

The video above explores the growth of the dangerous nitrous oxide industry and asks experts what long-term affects the drug might be having on health.

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