Ballooning Abuse of Laughing Gas: The new drug craze in Ghana

The recreational use of Nitrous oxide, popularly known as laughing gas, is reported to be on the rise in the country.

According to Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), many young people are abusing the drug due to its availability, low price, ease of use and the false perception that it is safe.

Many use disguised means including discharging the gas into special balloons before inhaling it.

The colourless substance has gained some popularity in nightclubs, pubs and other public spaces as it is said to cause a feeling of euphoria, relaxation and dissociation from reality.

Nitrous oxide has a legitimate wide range of medical, industrial and commercial uses.

It is commonly used by dentists and medical professionals to sedate patients during minor medical procedures.

Also, it can serve as food additives when used as propellant for whipped cream and, in the automotive industry, it is used to enhance engine performance.

Nitrous oxide was indeed intended for good until some persons found the devil in it.

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Here in Ghana, it is the new drug craze among the youthful population.

“It can’t be out of the market due to its licit uses so a lot of monitoring, supervision and alert have been put on its use,” the FDA’s Dr Agyekumwaa Boateng said.

A visit to a nightclub in the heart of Osu, Accra at 2:00am saw revellers having a great night.

The options there are many and one literally chooses their poison of fun and certainly the laughing gas was on the menu for those who were old users and people who wanted to experiment.

The prices of the balloons vary. In a search on the internet, a seller who deals in different types and flavours of nitrous oxide was found.

At his shop, he has the strawberry flavour of the gas as well as one known as the ‘Fast Gas’.

A canister of the Nitrous oxide costs GH¢700. But one can get a balloon for GH¢40 or GH¢50. The gas is then inhaled by discharging its cartridges into the balloon.

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The Food and Drugs Authority says it is a worrying trend.

“Some of the short-term health are: you’d find that such people [who abuse the gas] would have low blood pressure. It causes anaemia and there is loss of consciousness. Prolong recreational use would cause neurological disorders, mental disorders, incontinence and others.

“There is a lot of debilitating effects if [Nitrous oxide] is used for recreational purposes,” Dr Agyekumwaa Boateng added.

She also explained that many young people become addicted out of peer pressure and often just through sheer curiosity.

At another club, a gentleman was seen inhaling the balloon and also smoking a cigar.

The FDA says it is making frantic efforts to reduce the abuse of the gas.

“Apart from the aggressive public education we are embarking on nationwide, we are also doing monitoring in these nightclubs, pubs and public facilities to ensure that the owners – the responsibility is on the owners – to desist from using the [substance].”

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With little or no regulation regarding its use and distribution, it is perhaps time for the relevant authorities to act because a stitch in time, they say, saves nine.

By Christian Yalley|TV3||Ghana


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