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Deadly Balloon: Ghana Doctors Warn Against Laughing Gas Abuse

Medical experts warn against the recreational use of nitrous oxide, a potent anaesthetic gas that can cause severe harm and death.

by Victor Adetimilehin

Nitrous oxide, also known as “balloon” or “laughing gas”, is a popular party drug that can make users feel euphoric and relaxed. But it is also a powerful anaesthetic gas that can reduce consciousness, compromise breathing, and damage vital organs.

The Ghana Anaesthetists Society (GAS) and the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) have issued a joint statement expressing concern about the rising abuse of nitrous oxide for recreational purposes. They said the drug was extremely hazardous and included risks of low blood pressure, heart attack, and anaemia.

According to a report by Daily Graphic, they also warned that the drug could worsen respiratory conditions, increase the risk of developing severe forms of pneumonia, and cause nerve damage, especially in patients with underlying nutrient deficiency. They said the drug had the potential for addiction and could kill in less than 10 minutes.

A Dangerous Trend

The medical experts said they had observed that individuals were abusing nitrous oxide to get “high” or as a source of enjoyment. They said the drug was easily accessible and sold in balloons at nightclubs, parties, and online platforms.

They said this trend was alarming and posed a serious threat to public health and safety. They cited reports from other countries that showed the devastating effects of nitrous oxide abuse, such as brain damage, paralysis, and death.

According to the World Health Organization, nitrous oxide is one of the most widely used anaesthetic agents in the world. It is used for pain relief and sedation in medical and dental procedures. However, it is also one of the most commonly misused inhalants, especially among young people.

The WHO said that nitrous oxide abuse could impair cognitive and motor functions, affect memory and learning, and cause mood swings and psychosis. It also said that chronic exposure to nitrous oxide could lead to vitamin B12 deficiency, which could result in nerve degeneration and irreversible neurological damage.

A Call for Action

The GAS and the GMA urged the public to refrain from using nitrous oxide for recreational purposes and to seek help if they had a problem with the drug. They also called for the strict regulation of nitrous oxide and its use only by trained personnel, preferably anaesthesiologists, in a clinical setting.

They appealed to the Food and Drugs Authority, the Police, and other security agencies to join in the effort to clamp down the illicit use of nitrous oxide as a matter of urgency. They said this was necessary to protect the lives and well-being of the people, especially the youth, who were the most vulnerable to the drug.

They also called for more public education and awareness campaigns on the dangers of nitrous oxide and other inhalants. They said this was essential to prevent the drug from becoming a public health crisis and to promote a culture of responsible and healthy living.

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