Through Thibaut Calatayud
The misuse of nitrous oxide (NOT2O) don’t make the Professor Nicolas Franchitto. “The phenomenon of recreational consumption of this gas is not new. The problem that we encounter today is that the first use is done younger and younger ”, worries the head of the addictology department at the Toulouse University Hospital.
Before becoming one of the attractions of student parties for its hilarious effects, nitrous oxide is a gas used to perform anesthesia. “We still have a medical use for it. It can be used in emergencies, mainly in children. Mixed with oxygen, it is passed through a mask to perform short surgical procedures, ”explains the Toulouse addictologist.
In the kitchen, the “proto” is also necessary to be able to use a whipped cream siphon. So it’s a substance that anyone can have at home. A legal product that can turn into a real drug if it is diverted from the initial use.
Low cost banging
In the brain, the gas secretes hormones, falls asleep, relieves stress … It makes you high and laugh for a few seconds. A feeling of drunkenness that can push consumers to have changes or even dangerous.
The proto is also a way to “get high” easily and at a reduced price. On the internet, it is possible to buy around fifty small siphon cartridges or even a small “discreetly packaged” carboy. twenty euros only.
In nightclubs, via numerous ads on social networks such as Instagram u Snapchat… Obtaining nitrous oxide is not very complicated. Even for the youngest …
A gas that appeals to (very) young people
According to Prof. Franchitto, we can find consumers from the age of 13. Problem, these children’s brains are still maturing, making them more vulnerable to the effects of gas. “It’s like with other substances …”, wishes to emphasize the health professional.
With funny packaging, which sometimes gives instructions for consuming it in a roundabout way, nitrous oxide appeals to adolescents and young adults. It must also be said that several of their idols consume it:
“Nitrous oxide is highly publicized. High-level athletes (including several players from Arsenal football club at the end of 2018, editor’s note) were unwittingly filmed consuming it in nightclubs in England. There are also tutorials with reality TV actors who watch how to consume it. All of this helps stimulate the most vulnerable, the youngest and all those who identify with these people. “
Addiction and loss of control
But if it is tempting, the consumption of this gas is not without risk: mucous membrane burns, hypoxia or impairment of vitamin B12 stores from neurological disorders. “Unfortunately, it is often from this moment that we see the patients,” regrets Nicolas Franchitto.
By consuming it on a regular basis, consumers can fall into a real addiction. “They completely lose control over the consumption of the product. They can no longer do without it and it becomes a drug, ”adds the Toulouse University Hospital addictologist who cites extreme cases where patients can use several hundred cartridges per day.
“In these cases, there is a real loss of control and people can no longer stop using. There, we can consider that it is an addiction. That’s why it is us, addictologists, which intervene, as is the case with other substances such as alcohol, cocaine … “
“A way to disconnect”
“It is important that they meet with a neurologist for the vitamin B12 deficiencies induced by the chronic consumption of this product. But they also need to see an addictologist. Treating only neurological disorders without treating addiction is like trying to stop a water infiltration with paint… ”, compare the Professor who regrets the low number of spontaneous consultations.
Currently, its service follows a dozen patients addicted to the proto. They are rather young with a mode of entry by emergencies, either for a complication during a party evening, or for a neurological disorder.
“Today, it is rather young people who consume in a festive setting. Afterwards, they become addicted and will consume on their own. This is when they tell us that they are anxious, depressed and that it is a way for them to disconnect “.
The possession and use of laughing gas prohibited in the public domain
Faced with this phenomenon, many cities in France have issued decrees prohibiting the possession, use and abandonment of nitrous oxide gas cartridges in the public domain. Just in Occitania, this is particularly the case of Toulouse or even Montpellier (Hérault).
In the Pink City, the decree taken a year ago should apply until March 31, 2021. It was finally extended for one year by the town hall.
A law passed in May in the Senate
The subject worries at the national level. So much so that on May 25, 2021, the Senate definitively adopted a Law proposition the Senator from the North, Valerie Létard (Centrist Union). This aims to “prevent the dangerous uses of nitrous oxide”. Here is what she plans:
- prohibition of incitement or provocation to the consumption of N2O, and a one-year prison sentence and a fine of € 3,750 for those who do not respect this ban;
- the prohibition of sale or offer to minors (in shops and public places), but an exception would be provided for in the event of a medical prescription, including by online shopping sites;
- to allow information and prevention actions in schools and the army;
- provide for the affixing of a pictogram indicating the prohibition of sale to minors under 18 years of age on each container including this product.
He pleads for better prevention
For Professor Franchitto, prevention is the axis that must be developed as a priority.
If, in the pink city, mobile teams are already going to meet these potential consumers, the professional wants even more resources to increase these meetings. Especially since, according to him, “young people are sensitive to these messages”.
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