Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Stanetta is recovering at home from her appendectomy and post-operative urinary infection. I can feel she's wishing someone would now surgically remove the boredom of convalescence. I'm still an emotional wreck after the trauma of the last couple of weeks and I'm barely capable of putting a few bullet points together. Any kind of nuanced narrative will have to wait.

As I mentioned, she picked up a urinary infection after her operation and we needed to do yet another mercy dash to A&E on Saturday night. She had gas & air (nitrous oxide or N2O or laughing gas) for the pain which seems to be a very potent drug. I remember Mrs Stan got some for the stitches after childbirth and in minutes she went from terrible pain to singing "We're Walking In The Air". Stanetta had a similarly short journey from crippling abdominal pain to telling a long smiley rambling story about how she was a fish with a iridescent tail. Wish I'd written it all down.

So N2O is a powerful drug - I seem to remember it used to be a party drug. Didn't they used to fill balloons from cannisters appropriated from make-your-own-whipped-cream sets or from Nitro Injection kits from garages? Has it fallen out of fashion ?

More importantly : is it illegal and is it dangerous ?

Well, it's not a Class A, B or C drug, so doesn't fall under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

My guess is that it probably falls under the Medicine Act. This puts a heavy tariff on supplying prescription drugs without a licence, but possession or misuse is specifically not an offence.

There's another potential piece of legislation that could cover it - The Intoxicating Substance (Supply) Act 1985. This covers solvent, glue and aerosol-sniffing, but again it puts restrictions on supplying while not criminalising users.

When I went looking for further information, I found it doesn't feature at all on the government's "Frank" drug information site. This was a disappointment - but they invite you to text 82111 with your question and it will be answered by an expert.

I decided to do so, hoping that some government mega-computer didn't look up my mobile phone number and put "possible drug addict" in the big thick file they presumably hold on everyone.

Text Message to 82111 ("Frank") : "Why does laughing gas not get mentioned ? Is it illegal ? Is it dangerous ?"

Almost immediately I got an automated reply saying that my message will shortly be answered by "a professionally trained adviser". Oh good.

Fifteen minutes later I got my reply from the professionally trained adviser.

"Unfortunately we don't have information on Nitrous oxide. Further information may be obtainable from the internet. Call FRANK for help with illegal drugs."

This is the worst answer I can think of. A friend of mine lectures on Information Science and the first lesson they have to get across to their students is that any bozo can put stuff on the Internet, so don't just trust Google and Wikipedia - go find an authorative source.

In fact, if you do look on Google for prescription drugs, you're more likely to find information about how to obtain them through the post than whether you'll get busted or dead or both.

Frank is an excellent source of information about the standard "Classified" controlled drugs, but if someone has gone to to the lengths to ask for help, surely they can do something better for them than to refer them to "the internet"?

I'm not an authorative source, and my research failed to find a definitive view on the legality of possessing and using nitrous oxide - but I am convinced that it's not safe like sniffing glue is not safe. It starves your brain of oxygen, makes you incapable and vulnerable, can put you into a coma and is habit-forming.

So, Frank says : Go Away And Google It.

Stan says : Definitely Don't Do It.

No comments: