Clubbers’ laughing gas craze claims its first life

By Abrad · Jun 20, 2007 · Updated Sep 21, 2007 · ·
  1. Abrad
    Nitrous oxide branded 'hippie crack' as revellers get hooked

    THE growing use of laughing gas as a recreational drug among middle-class party goers has claimed its first fatality in Britain.

    Daniel Watts, a 23-year-old company director, was found dead at his home next to a large cylinder of nitrous oxide – a drug popular among students and young professionals.

    An inquest was told last month he had asphyxiated himself by excessive inhalation of the drug, which is known as “hippie crack” for its psychological addictiveness and for the euphoria it induces.

    The law on the sale and use of the gas appears to be unclear. A spokeswoman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said it was not an illegal drug although its sale is controlled by legislation on medicines.

    However, according to the Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, it is illegal to sell nitrous oxide to people who intend to inhale it as a recreational drug.

    The gas is used in making whipped cream and anyone over 18 can buy it if they say that they want it for culinary purposes. Possessing and inhaling it is entirely legal.

    A host of internet sites sell it and nightclubs throughout Britain openly supply it to revellers. But research indicates a range of physical effects on habitual users, such as degeneration of the spinal column.

    Donald Singer, professor of clinical pharmacology at Warwick University, called for warnings on containers that nitrous oxide may cause death, severe injury and long-term disability. “There needs to be an ethical debate around what you do beyond that . . . whether you say ‘people will get it anyway because of its food use’ or whether somehow you say ‘you can only use it in licensed premises’,” he said.

    Medical-grade nitrous oxide is a constituent of the gas-and-air mixture used for pain relief in childbirth.

    Christopher Ball, the Birmingham deputy coroner who conducted the inquest into Watts’s death, recorded a narrative verdict, stating that there was no evidence he intentionally took his own life.

    Watts, who helped to run a promotions company in the West Midlands, had placed a bag over his head to increase the intensity of the fumes he was inhaling. The gas, which can cause the user to lose consciousness, prevented him from breathing oxygen and he died.

    The use of laughing gas has taken the club scene by storm and it is now being offered to guests at dinner parties. The London nightclub Turnmills provides a “laughing room” on some nights, selling balloons containing a single hit of gas at about £2 each.

    A spokesman for the club said it would continue to provide nitrous oxide to revellers, adding: “Like other club premises, we accept its responsible use.”

    A wealth of companies offer nitrous oxide on the internet. One, Cream Supplies, insisted it would not sell to anyone suspected of using it for inhalation. However, under the heading “cash sales” its site posts the mobile numbers of several dealers who are not bound by the company’s terms and conditions.

    Some of these openly offered to sell the gas and inhalation paraphernalia, such as dispensing machines and balloons.

    One, who called himself “Alby” and covered the London area, told a reporter: “I deliver 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you call me and you pay me to come out to wherever you want me to come out, I come out. Basically on a box of 400 [hits], we charge £100 . . . we charge £20 delivery and, if it’s really unsocial hours we put it up to £30.”

    Tom, a former vendor, said: “Because the high is really short, people just want it again and again and you see people overdoing it.”

    Singer said: “People think it’s safe to take it by filling balloons with it and then inhaling the balloon. Sometimes they then also spin round and become dizzy and euphoric at the same time. Clearly the danger is you are out of control.

    “The other risk is the longer term problem for people who do it repeatedly. There are reports of long-term damage to brain and bone marrow.”

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  1. Orchid_Suspiria
    Swim does think people should be warned of how to safely use nitrous that is a given.But why are things like this such big news?So many deaths caused by alcohol every year and it doesn't get the press like this.Something is wrong here...
  2. Paracelsus
    Any kind of article that deals with the evils of drugs can become a huge headline. It doesn't matter how it's written and if the IQ of the writer is higher or lower than his shoe size.
  3. enquirewithin
    People don't kill themselves with balloons full of nitrous! Lucky ****-- a whole tank full!
  4. cyndi
    Swim has a reason to be reading this section. Someone swim cares for uses this stuff. Swim is old school and doesn't understand it well. Ok from the reading of the thread, swim is to assume nitrous is safe? Even in large doses, very large doses for an extended period of time? Swim needs insight.
  5. chrisn
    There are three dangers of of nitrous, all of which are easily avoided. The first is freezing of the mouth and lips due to rapid cooling of the gas as it becomes uncompressed, or ruptured blood vessels due to the gas pressure. This is simply avoided if the gas is released into a balloon and then inhaled. The next danger is asphyxiation, which only happens due to lack of common sense. One does not strap a mask on their face that is connected to a nitrous tank, because due to the dissociative effect, they might forget to take it off and not get enough oxygen. The final danger is that chronic use of nitrous depletes vitamin B12 levels, which can cause neurological problems. Numbness at extremities is a warning sign of this. Just take a multivitamin and you're fine.
  6. psychedelaholic
    The only reason that guy died was because he hooked himself up to the canister, he was an idiot. Asphyxiation from inhaling from balloons would be impossible, as soon as you do too much and pass out you would drop the balloon and start breathing air again. Excessive use of NOS leads to vitamin B12 depletion which can be sorted out by drinking some red bull or something like that.
  7. Paracelsus
    Yes, the man's problem was connecting himself to a large container of nitrous. He was 'found dead at his home', which means that he was alone.

    Nitrous from containers should NEVER be done without an assistant. If the nitrous is pure (no oxygen), the assistant should stop the user from inhaling after maximum one minute. The user can't do this himself/herself, because many get fully dissociated/unconscious.
  8. Heretic.Ape.
    edited: out of touch with the lingo I guess, lol... kids these days with their hippie crack. was he also masturbating with the bag over his head?
  9. Paracelsus
    Ummm, hippie crack is a quite commonly used slang name for nitrous. It refers to the intensity and short duration of the experience.
  10. Micklemouse
    I know the intentions are good with these 2 quotes, but come on folks, this is wrong information that a bit of research, in fact 2 minutes on our own search engine, soon puts right.

    intensive use of Nitrous Oxide does more than deplete your B12 for a while - it actually destroys the myelin sheath which protects the nerves from over-stimulation & subsequent damage. It is also thought that it destroys the bodies ability to fully metabolise vitamin B12 for some time after use. It takes more than a multivitamin or can of Red Bull to rectify this - it takes a major course of high strength vitamin B12 & many months to recover from what can be a very painfull & debilitating experience.

    I find the coroners verdict rather suspect here, mainly because I find it hard to believe that anyone could be that stupid (no direspect to the dead or his family meant, but really... Mr Darwin would certainly have something to say!), unless they had some issues around self-harm, whether sexual or suicidal. Of course, we'll never exactly what was going on in the man's head before tying a bag around his head & pumping it full of Nitrous.
  11. FrankenChrist
    Oyyy :/

    There are enough warnings about not strapping a mask to your face.
    No matter what the substance is, even when it's not mind altering, someone will always find a way to kill himself with it...
  12. Nacumen
    Wow. Any 3-year-old knows not to put a fucking bag around his head. An experienced nitrous user, a grown man no less, should know not to inhale a dissociative with a fucking bag around his head.

    Darwin Award, anyone?
  13. Synthetic
    Whats worse is that any 3-year-old knows not to put a bag around ones head.

    Even if its only oxygen.
  14. Mega maniac
    Maybe the guy just wanted to top himself... I mean SWIMM couldnt think of a better way of doing it, if he felt like topping himself the first thing he would be doing is buying a tank of Nos and a binbag.
  15. psyche
    It's not that simple. Nitrous actually prevents methionine synthesase, which is required to render the usual form of B12, cyanocobolamin, to be useful. If you don't want to supplement both normal B12 and this rare enzyme, buy B12 which is methylcobolamin. It makes up for the deficiency. Here's a useful article about the dangers of nitrous:
  16. chaz
    This guy just overdid it, the key is moderation. A few chargers of NOS isn't going to kill you. This guy was obviously just quite stupid.

    I just love the phrasing they use in The Times for articles about drug related problems
  17. Paracelsus
    I don't think he was 'just quite stupid'. Either he was extremely fucking stupid (not likely for a company director at that age) or he wanted to kill himself. The coroner's verdict is bullshit. Nobody with an intact brain ties a bag over one's own head to 'increase the intensity of the fumes he was inhaling'. It was most likely suicide, if you ask me. Seems like a painless way out.
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