‘Hippy crack’ may be more dangerous for vegans and vegetarians, EU drugs agency says
- People who follow a meat- and dairy-free diet may be more at risk for chronic disease
- This is because they are more likely to already be deficient in vitamin B12
- The claim was submitted by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction
Vegans and vegetarians may be at greater risk if they misuse nitrous oxide as a recreational drug, experts warn.
People following a meat- and dairy-free diet may be at risk of chronic disease from taking nitrous oxide because they are already deficient in vitamin B12, according to the European Union Medicines Agency.
A new report also warned of the dangers of larger cylinders of the gas – dubbed ‘hippy crack’ – being marketed to young people.
People breathing the gas to get “high” are turning to the larger canisters, which “has led to an increase in frostbite and lung injuries,” according to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
Nitrous oxide is regularly used by young people at parties and festivals, and the small silver vans in which it is commonly sold have become a familiar sight in city centers and parks
The large aerosol cans also promote “more regular and heavy usage,” it added.
Among its many dangerous side effects, nitrous oxide can cause “irreversible inactivation of vitamin B12,” the report said.
“More people, especially young people, are opting for vegetarian and vegan diets that are poor in this vitamin,” it said.
“Low levels of the vitamin increase the risk of chronic toxicity, particularly nerve damage.”
“Because of 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 encountered large piles of supersized buses in public areas
It added: ‘Vitamin B12 supplementation while continuing to use nitrous oxide does not seem to stop the chronic toxicity.’
Smaller nitrous oxide canisters – which are legally used in the hospitality industry – have been widely used for recreational drug use for at least ten years.
The small, silver cartridges hold four liters of gas, but the larger types can hold between 322 liters and 5,500 litres.
Doctors told MailOnline that using nitrous oxide behind the wheel is extremely dangerous because it starves the brain of oxygen and impairs the senses
Large jerry cans have often become strewn on British streets in the past year. For example, the cleanup after Notting Hill Carnival in London during the Bank Holiday in August filled four containers with empty jerry cans.
The cartridges are usually used to inflate a party balloon, from which the gas is inhaled.
It leads to euphoria and hallucinations and can cause laughter.
One in 11 people aged 16 to 24 said they had used nitrous oxide in 2019-20, according to the Crime Survey of England and Wales.
Amid mounting concerns, the government’s Drug Abuse Advisory Council was asked last fall to review the harm caused by the drug. It has yet to report.
What is laughing gas and is it illegal?
Nitrous oxide has been nicknamed “laughing gas” because of the euphoric and relaxed feeling that people who inhale it can sometimes feel.
The substance – also known as ‘hippy crack’ – is normally purchased in pressurized jerry cans, usually transferred into a container, such as a balloon, from which the gas is inhaled.
Although possession of nitrous oxide is not illegal, English law prohibits its sale to those under the age of 18 if they are likely to inhale it.
Nitrous oxide canisters and cigarette butts litter the roadside in Camden Town on Feb. 11
The effects of nitrous oxide vary depending on how much is inhaled, but they include:
• Feelings of euphoria, relaxation and calmness.
• Dizziness, trouble thinking clearly and giggling/laughing.
• Sound distortions or even hallucinations.
• In some people headaches can be an unwanted immediate effect.
• Unconsciousness or death from lack of oxygen. This happens when the oxygen available for breathing is effectively pushed out by the nitrous oxide.