Doctors are warning of a terrifying epidemic after a 50 percent rise in the number of young people in England using nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to give them a high.
Users claim it can be as easy to buy as a loaf of bread and there are calls for the government to ban its sale after a rise in people suffering life-changing nerve damage and even paralysis after inhaling the gas.
Former Conservative London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey is a Christian youth worker who also worked at one of the biggest drugs projects in the capital. He’s been speaking to Premier about the dangers of the drug and why its use is on the increase:
“The problem is that selling the cannisters to people under 18 is not illegal yet.
“I really do think something needs to be done about it. We have a conversation now in this country about legalising marijuana. So if you’re going to legalise marijuana, it puts nitrous oxide in a very strange place, because you can’t say on the one hand, we have legalised some drugs that people talk about as less dangerous, and then ask for this to be made illegal. I think we need to have a look at how we treat drugs. There needs to be more noise from parents asking for drugs to remain illegal.”
Inhaling nitrous oxide can give users a 30-second high, making them feel dizzy and lightweight. It’s used for medical purposes in hospitals and dental surgeries, but supplying it for recreational use is illegal.
However, following a spike in hospitalisations, the prime minister is said to be looking into stricter regulations.
Shaun Bailey says that part of the problem is “this notion that in the Western world, you should be ecstatically happy all of time. And that leads to people actually feeling unhappy when they’re not happy.
“So many young people’s lives go to waste using drugs. The issue is that when we speak about drug use, we imagine someone who is sort of down and out and laying on the floor, but it’s an even larger number of people who just don’t do anything. They smoke marijuana, they sniff nitrous oxide, there are many other drugs they take, which just leads to them having absolutely no agency. They just waste away. They don’t attack anyone, but they just don’t live life to the fullest.”
Shaun Bailey would like to see more education about the dangers of drugs including nitrous oxide because he thinks young people don’t realise the risks. He also hopes more young people come to know the love of Jesus rather than striving for man-made highs:
“I think my first response would be to spread the gospel and find your identity in Jesus. If you know you’re valued by the one who created us all, it gives you a very different spin on the world, you have a protective factor there. Secondly, if you’re embedded in your community, spread the message, just say these things look innocent, they look attractive, but they are hugely dangerous.”