Laughing gas: Beware, be alert
Is there something really in a name? The last I checked with my dictionary, the word laughing connotes happiness with the words smiling, amused and pleased, as some synonyms. So why should one be mindful of anything christened “laughing”?
Well, that is what the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) is telling us, and should anyone dare them? No, not until one has listened to their wise counseling.
And so, last week, the country’s authority on food and drug safety for consumers issued an alert which was subsequently published by the Daily Graphic, cautioning the general public against recreational use of Nitrous Oxide, also known as laughing gas.
The substance, a colourless gas that is non-inflammable with a pleasant, sweetish odour, though used in several processes including medical cases, is said to be only safe when used under proper care and guidance.
It is commonly known as laughing or happy gas due to its ability to cause spells of giggles and laughter. The irony is that when it is misused, it can be very harmful.
The strong alert issued by the FDA, therefore, is that Nitrous Oxide or laughing gas is extremely hazardous in a prolonged use with negative long risk of low blood pressure, heart attack and anaemia.
Additionally, the public is warned that wrong unguided users of the substance are prone to the risk of suffocating and loss of consciousness.
Ignorant of its hazardous nature, night clubs, party organisers, individuals and other fun fare events constantly use the substance to create fun and some euphoria and to ginger an air of good entertainment and happiness. In effect, the substance is used to encourage an atmosphere of being “on cloud nine”.
But the reality is that we are all at risk of the harmful effects of the inappropriate use of the laughing gas, which apparently is also used in balloons for decoration. For as long as one attends birthday parties, weddings, product launches or celebrations of many kinds, there could be a risk of exposure, where one finds decorative pieces in which the gas has been used, especially if done improperly.
According to the information from FDA, another group of fun makers who could also be exposed to the harmful effects of inappropriate use of the substance are night clubbers.
Some night clubs reportedly use Nitrous Oxide to create or cause sound distortions and hallucinations, all in the bid to produce more fun and happiness amidst the booming sounds of enjoyable music.
The public notice from the FDA further explained that the long term recreational use of Nitrous Oxide could also compromise the immune system, mental and neurological disorders including hand and foot numbness and limb spasms, depression and incontinence.
Unfortunately, sometimes, our false claim to knowing everything under the sun leads us to easily dismiss such critical information. We tend to and it is in our nature to turn a blind eye to and dismiss any such valuable information.
One does so, sometimes, with a self-righteous attitude which seems to say, “we have been doing this for a long time with no consequences”. But the fact is it is when one least expects it that when the unfortunate happens. At that stage, the “had I known” regret sets in, belatedly though.
Since to be forewarned is to be forearmed, FDA’s timely caution on the unsupervised use of the laughing gas must be embraced with all seriousness. Their “users beware” notice must not lead one to throw caution to the wind because like all other substance abuses, the misuse or abuse of Nitrous Oxide, one is learning, could be catastrophic.
While FDA and other agencies are out there to help with public and safety education on the substance and sensitise the general public, one hopes that those who are prone to be using the substance for one reason or the other would be continuously reminded, through forthright education on the dangers they expose the public to.
Even though they might be thinking that they are doing what they have been doing over years, with no catastrophes, the public and safety sensitisation efforts should emphasise and draw attention to what calamity could happen one day. The learning here is that accidents are caused, they do not just happen.
So, since knowledge is power, it is the civic duty of all of us to be acquainted with the education on the harmful use of the laughing gas and help police its use at public places where they are engaged as fun creating aids.
One should not allow the name, laughing or happy gas, to deceive anymore, going forward. User, be advised.