‘Hippy crack’ may be more dangerous to vegans and vegetarians, EU drug agency says
- People on a meat- and dairy-free diet could be more at risk of chronic illness
- This is because they are more likely to already be deficient in vitamin B12
- Claim was made by European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction
Vegans and vegetarians may be at greater risk when abusing laughing gas as a recreational drug, experts have warned.
People on a meat- and dairy-free diet could be at risk of chronic illness from taking nitrous oxide because they are already deficient in vitamin B12, the European Union drug agency said.
A new report also warned of dangers posed by larger cylinders of the gas – dubbed ‘hippy crack’ – which are being marketed to the young.
People who inhale the gas to get ‘high’ are turning to the larger canisters which has ‘led to an increase in frostbite and lung injuries’, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said.
Nitrous oxide is regularly taken by young people at parties and festivals, and the small silver canisters it is usually sold in have become a familiar sight in town centres and parks
The large aerosols also promote ‘more regular and heavier use’, it added.
Among many dangerous side effects, nitrous oxide can cause ‘irreversible inactivation of vitamin B12’, the report said.
‘More people, particularly young people, are choosing vegetarian and vegan diets that are poor in this vitamin,’ it said.
‘Low levels of the vitamin increases the risk of chronic toxicity, particularly nerve damage.
‘Due to this, the level of vitamin B12 deficiencies in this group and the risk of chronic toxicity may need to be assessed.’
In Southgate, north London, local officers have repeatedly come across large piles of the supersized canisters in public spaces
It added: ‘Supplementation with vitamin B12 while continuing to use nitrous oxide does not appear to stop chronic toxicity.’
Smaller nitrous oxide canisters – which are legitimately used in the catering industry – have been widely used for recreational drug-taking for at least a decade.
The small, silver cartridges contain four litres of gas, but the larger types can hold between 322 litres and 5,500 litres.
Doctors told MailOnline using nitrous oxide behind the wheel is extremely dangerous because it starves the brain of oxygen and impairs the senses
Large canisters have become commonly littered in British streets in the last year. For example, the clear-up after Notting Hill Carnival in London over the August Bank Holiday filled four skips with empty canisters.
The cartridges are typically used to inflate a party balloon, from which the gas is inhaled.
It leads to euphoria and hallucinations, and can cause fits of giggles.
One in 11 people aged 16 to 24 said they had taken laughing gas in 2019-20, according to the Crime Survey of England and Wales.
Amid mounting concerns, the Government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs was asked to review the harm caused by the drug last autumn. It has yet to report.
What is Nitrous Oxide and is it illegal?
Nitrous Oxide, has been nicknamed ‘laughing gas’ due to the euphoric and relaxed feeling people who inhale it can sometimes feel.
The substance – also known as ‘hippy crack’ – is normally bought in pressured canisters, commonly transferred to a container, e.g. a balloon, from which the gas is inhaled.
Although possession of laughing gas is not illegal, English law prohibits its sale to under-18s if there is a chance they will inhale it.
Nitrous Oxide canisters and cigarette butts litter a roadside in Camden Town on February 11
The effects of nitrous oxide vary depending on how much has been inhaled but they include:
• Feelings of euphoria, relaxation and calmness.
• Dizziness, difficulty in thinking straight and fits of giggles/laughter.
• Sound distortions or even hallucinations.
• In some people, a headache can be an unwanted immediate effect.
• Unconsciousness or death from lack of oxygen. This occurs when the available oxygen for breathing is effectively pushed out by the nitrous oxide.
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