Recently when out and about on my litter picking rambles, I have seen a sharp increase in small shiny canisters laying at the side of the road. As a keen cyclist I thought to myself how very poor of other cyclists to simply leave their CO2 canisters laying wherever they had a puncture. We use CO2 to rapidly inflate tyres to get us on our way again. Then I thought “that’s an awful lot of punctures”, and they all seem to be happening in our green spaces and car parks! How very weird. I mentioned this to a friend who laughed at my naivety and announced these were not CO2 canisters, but N2O canisters – laughing gas. Ah the penny dropped. People are now using this gas – used is the medical profession to help ease pain during child birth etc for a quick, cheap easy high! Hey man. Okay, fair enough. Each to their own and all that. In my day it was a case of a swigging on a can of cheap cider behind the bus shelter in an attempt to build enough confidence to go for first base with my best mates sister. Just to let you know Jimmy – it never worked!
So clearly these days for a lot of people a can of strongbow (other brands are available) just isn’t enough. People have managed to get their hands on these canisters via main stream websites with a view to inhaling the gas via a receptacle – usually a balloon or rubber glove. Now, there is nothing new about inhaling laughing gas to get a kick. Indeed it has been around for hundreds of years and was the ‘drug’ of choice for many wealthy socialites in the 18 century. But were not in the 18th century, were in the 21st and sales of this stuff would/should/could be regulated to ensure it is only going to those who need it – medical profession and catering companies. Apparently its used to whip cream! I always did have a soft spot for a chocolate éclair…
So, on my walks I go around and I pick these canisters – and associated balloons up and dispose of them responsibly. The problem is that the users are just leaving these where they lie – littering the streets and parks with this stuff. Not only that, they don’t seem to be using this gas in isolation. The hit just isn’t good enough. I regularly find joint ends, pill packets and booze cans and bottles along side. Now what people get up to in their own time really isn’t any of my business, but when I am finding this stuff in car parks I rather unsurprisingly make a link – they are driving cars and mopeds whilst drunk and HIGH… Mmm doesn’t sound like a healthy combination to me.
So what can we do about this? I have applied to gov petitions to set up a petition aimed at regulating the sale of these canisters. As it stands, I am still waiting to hear whether the petition as been accepted for ‘going live’. Now I would assume regulating the sale of these cannot be too difficult. Only those with medical or food preparation licence should be able to purchase these from source. You then track the volumes sold to individuals companies to ensure they are realistic based on customer base. If things don’t add up then perhaps you have found a supply chain back to the kids. Some might say this will only serve to drive demand and prices up. Well this may be true. I don’t know. We can hypothesise but I believe having a list of suppliers can only help in identifying end users.
A few days ago my mother in law sent me a link to an article from the Independent or Telegraph or some similar broadsheet ‘bigging-up’ the new found green ethos of the festival, how plastic water bottles has been banned from sale saving an estimated 1 million entering the waste system. Fabulous of course – absolutely fabulous. A huge step in the right direction. To celebrate this achievement there was a collage of photos showing people – blowing up balloons in celebration! It’s a shame Harry Potter media – The Daily Prophet isn’t available as if these photos had have been moving images, I think we may have seen the balloons actually shrinking rather than inflating and floating away! The use of N2O is common place, but older generations remain rather naïve to it – much like I was.
Now although N2O is used in medical circumstances, its use it strictly controlled. Can you imagine the uproar if pregnant mums-to-be started dying during child birth due to oxygen deprivation brought on by N2O asphyxiation (O2 washed out of the circulatory system replaced by N2O)? There would be a massive storm in a very massive tea cup and rightly so. So why then is the government seemingly doing nothing about large scale commercial and unregulated sale linked to recreational use? That is the question I want to ask. How many people have to die – not just from inhaling concentrated N2O but from being hit by cars or mopeds driven by those who are HIGH, drunk and stoned? About 1 person on average dies each year in the UK from N2O asphyxiation. I can only assume this is not a large enough number to get those in power to sit up and listen, but when consumed with other drugs including alcohol, how many user deaths are there and what are the numbers of deaths attributed of innocents as a result of users actions? Of course its not just about people dying. There is a well known case of the young mum Olivia Golding (24) who in the summer of 2018 inhaled the gas at a party and is now left with Lichteim’s disease. https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/mum-24-who-inhaled-up-13065757 Though this condition is treatable, it will have long term effects on the ‘patient’ and their loved ones. A risk worth taking for a few giggles? I think not! Gimme a cheap can of cider any night of the week.
The moral of this blog post is that littering is bad enough. Abusing yourself with drugs is bad enough, but it’s the potential effect on others that I have the biggest gripe with. I will continue to pick up the canisters and balloons and dispose of them responsibly, but the question really is who will pick up the pieces of broken families left behind when the accidents start to happen?
For scientific evidence effects and risks – follow think link ttps://adf.org.au/drug-facts/nitrous-oxide/
By the way, I’m happily married now and so is Jimmys sister, though of course not to each other. That was never going to happen on one can of Strongbow!