Nitrogen: A laugh that destroys your spinal cord

Nitrogen: A laugh that destroys your spinal cord

Short laughs from nitrous oxide cartridges can have long-lasting consequences for the body and brain. New MRI scans show that nitrous oxide destroys the spinal cord with irreparable damage.

Nitrous oxide can cause coordination problems, emotional disturbance, difficulty standing and walking, impaired memory and latency in speech.

Nitrogen meets resistance in Europe

On 21 January, the Government of Denmark presented a broad political agreement. The agreement means, among other things, that private individuals can only buy two small nitrous oxide cartridges of 8 grams at a time.

Also, the sale of large nitrous oxide cartridges to private individuals is prohibited. The quantity restriction is accompanied by an age limit which means that the cartridges must not be sold to young people under 18 years.

In Finland, it is illegal to consume and sell nitrous oxide as an intoxicant.

In December 2019, the Dutch government announced that they would put nitrous oxide on the "blacklist" of banned drugs.

And in England and Wales, it has been illegal to sell and ingest nitrous oxide as an intoxicant since 2016.

The euphoric feeling and the funny dizziness have subsided. Only the nitrous oxide cartridges remain in the parking lots and the city streets.

Nitric oxide, N2O, or nitrous oxide is not only found at the dentist or the hospital. There is also nitrous oxide in spray cream bottles – so-called siphons: from them, the gas can be squeezed out and inhaled with 1-2 minutes of intoxication.

The cheap laugh can cost you dearly

The nitrous oxide expert Dorte Fris Palmqvist, who is a consultant at Bispebjerg Hospital in Denmark, speaks to addicts when the injury has occurred. Therefore, she knows what the body and brain are exposed to.

Each time nitrous oxide is inhaled, the brain suffocates for a short time. In the worst case, it suffocates forever. However, this often occurs in combination with other intoxicants or alcohol.

In several places, people who have taken too much nitrous oxide – usually in connection with alcohol or other euphoric drugs – are reported and have been strangled.

A widespread problem

In 2011, the Gift Line in Denmark received 0 reports of nitrous oxide. In 2018 they got just over 40, and in 2019 they got more than 60, says Dorte Fris Palmqvist.

But the figures for the number of young people in Denmark who have tested nitrous oxide are much higher.

17 percent of boys in both upper secondary and vocational schools aged 15-25 have at some point tested inhalation of nitrous oxide from gas cartridges. Among girls, the figures are eight and ten percent, respectively, according to a 2019 study.

Nitrogen gas paralyzes the entire body

The heavy gas quickly affects the whole body.

Even during small and few inhalations, the body will experience disturbances and changes.

The spinal cord is destroyed

In hospitals and dentists, nitrous oxide is usually mixed with 50 percent oxygen. But the gas inhaled from siphon cartridges is 100 percent clean.

Long-term abuse of nitrous oxide causes the amount of vitamin B12 in the body to be deactivated. Vitamin B12 deficiency affects cell division while demyelinating nerve babies – they are degreased.

As shown in the picture below.

To the left is a picture of a healthy spinal cord. On the right, you see the spinal cord of an anonymous 28-year-old patient. The patient’s spinal cord has been clearly damaged by extensive nitrous oxide. (Weekly For Doctor)


Our nerves have a natural fat layer, which helps to transmit signals from the brain to the rest of the body from the spinal cord. But the thick layer can be “gasified” with N2O.

The result is clearly visible on the spine (the image to the right) with the help of MRI scans, says the chief physician Søren Bøgevig:

– A great use of nitrous oxide gives clear signal changes in the MRI image. Demyelization is shown by the grey mass – the spinal cord – having an elongated paler area – which looks clearly brighter in the image.

He points out that the spinal cord of a healthy person is similar to dark grey throughout.

There is no cure, but …

The patient received 100–200 gas cartridges – like the one pictured above – a day for two months before the hospitalization writes Danish Ugeskrift For Læger.

There is no cure for nitrous oxide. But the patient ended up in an improvement course, which involved large amounts of vitamin B12, drugs and rehab training.

Doctors do not yet know how much nitrous oxide a person should inhale before the spinal cord breaks down.

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