Toulouse. Laughing gas: a law that prohibits sales to minors

The essentials The abuse of laughing gas leads to chaos in young people who inhale this gas because of its euphoric effects. A bill tabled on March 25th will ban the sale of this product to minors. This is a first in France.

Laughing gas doesn’t make you laugh anymore. Laughing gas, this product used in the medical field for pain relief, has become a major health risk over the years. While abuse by 15-25 year olds looking for new euphoric sensations is soaring in France, a law should regulate and restrict this product very soon, especially among minors. A proposal from the MP for the North, Valérie Six (UDI), has to be presented to the National Assembly on March 25th. This is a first as this product, whose repeated effects can turn into drama, is not classified in the narcotic category and there is no legislation regulating its use. On March 17th, the Social Committee unanimously adopted the text. This law is intended to protect minors from the dangerous uses of nitrous oxide. It had already been passed by the Senate in December 2019 under the leadership of the Senator from the North, Valérie Létard.

Also read: “Thirty seconds of euphoria and fits of laughter”

Prohibit sales to minors

In a year’s time, awareness of the dangers of the “proto” will be real among legislators trying to fill a huge void. Especially since the French health authorities have not stopped warning of the harmful effects of this phenomenon in recent years. The key measure of this law: the ban on the sale of nitrous oxide to minors in all shops and public places, which is punishable by a fine of € 3,750. Available in stores or on the internet (€ 13 for a set of 10 cartridges), this little gray capsule with gas deflated into a balloon to be breathed in is the new way to get up among the youngest. Laughing gas or “proto” causes uncontrolled laughter, well-being, hallucinations for a few seconds, but, less funny, can lead to coma or fatal asphyxiation.

In medicine, this gas has long been used for its analgesic and anesthetic properties. It’s also used for cooking in whipped cream siphons. In some cities municipal decrees prohibit the abuse of the “Proto”. But it remains very limited in time and space. “Apart from a fine of 38 euros there are no regulations. This new law will already make up for a huge delay,” says a police source who is determining the extent of the phenomenon in Occitania. In 2019, our region ranks third in terms of the number of cases identified, after Ile-de-France and Hauts-de-France. Between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2019, 66 nitrous oxide poisoning were registered by the various poison control centers across France. The majority were young men and more than half were between 20 and 25 years old. Of the 66 cases, 42 had “at least one neurological or neuromuscular symptom” (tremors, tingling, involuntary contractions, etc.). According to the OFDT Trend device, the sale of nitrous oxide at or near festive events in 2019 was most common in Île-de-France, Brittany, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur or cutaneous observed. de-France. The partial data for 2020 shows a threefold increase in the number of cases reported to the network of centers for addiction monitoring between 2019 and 2020.

Samu 31: “Suffocating and comic Risks”

“The main danger of this gas is the risk of suffocation and coma,” warns the head of Samu 31 in Toulouse, Vincent Bounes. On the front line, this specialist, who also works in the poison control center of the CHU Purpan, has already observed cases of coma in connection with the abuse of laughing gas or “proto”. “It’s consumed less than hard drugs like heroin or cocaine, but when mixed with alcohol and cannabis the consequences of the cocktail can be very serious.” The product works very quickly in just 2 minutes. It creates a euphoric wellbeing effect that users are looking for. This gas can cause undesirable effects, which generally disappear 15 minutes after you stop inhaling, but may last for a few hours or even a few days, depending on the dose used. Nausea, vomiting, or headache are the most common effects.

Also read: “Protecting Young People from Public Health Risks”

In high doses, the “proto” can also cause confusion, disorientation, difficulty speaking and coordinating movements, and muscle weakness. The addictive potential of nitrous oxide remains controversial, but for some users, the low cost of the product and the rapid disappearance of the desired effects can lead to frequent renewal of catches and excessive consumption. With regular use, normal users may experience anxiety, restlessness, abdominal pain and tremors. This gas can also have serious neurological consequences if used on a massive and regular basis. “There were squat warnings in Toulouse, but ultimately few people were hospitalized,” added Vincent Bounes. Historically, nitrous oxide mixed with oxygen has been used in the medical field for over a hundred years, especially by dentists. It is known for its analgesic and anesthetic properties. According to a survey by the French Observatory for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT) in 2017, 2.3% of 18- to 64-year-olds and 3.1% of 17-year-olds stated that they had consumed one or more inhalation products (adhesives, solvents), Laughing gas, etc.) at least once in their life.