GMA, Others Warn Against ‘Laughing Gas’

…Backs FDA To Clamp Down On Usage

By Gifty Arthur

The Ghana Media Association (GMA) and the Ghana Anesthetists Society are warning the public, especially the youth, against the illicit use of nitrous oxide, also known as “balloons” or “laughing gas.”

Just like tramadol and other drugs, the nitrous oxide is being abused by the youth at various entertainment centres, like nightclubs, pubs and parties across the country.

But in a joint statement, signed by the GMA president, Dr. (Med). Frank Serebour, and General Secretary Dr. (Den). Richard Selormey, the two bodies said it is concerned about the increasing use of the potentially dangerous drug as it can worsen respiratory conditions.

The statement, sighted by The Anchor, dated Monday, December 4, also expressed worry that such a dangerous drug has become easily accessible.

“The Ghana Anesthetists Society (GAS) and the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) have noted with concern reports in the media that suggest the increasing use of Nitrous Oxide popularly known as “balloons” for recreational purposes. Equally worrying is the case of access for such a potentially dangerous drug,” the stated.

They explained, “Nitrous oxide is one of the anesthetics gases in clinical use. As an anesthetic drug, it has the potential to reduce consciousness which is accompanied by breathing difficulties and cardiovascular depression.

“It is also known to worsen respiratory conditions like pneumothorax and increase the risk of developing severe forms of pneumonia.”

Adamant youths

The Anchor’s checks have revealed a trend, where young people have increasingly abused the substance usage to apparently induce laughter, euphoria, relaxation, calmness and a sense of detachment.

Interestingly, this paper has sighted a video on ‘X,’ formerly Twitter, showing a male user inhaling it and saying “for human being to kill him, he will allow balloon to kill him.”

Another X user with the handle Leslie C. N. A Laryea, after sighting the GMA statement, said, “Paa say the system already dey kill we dierrr, what death from balloon go do boys.”

But the health professionals insist the drug is dangerous, as it has the potential to compromise breathing and can kill users with 10 minutes.

“Its prolonged use can cause anemia and nerve damage especially in patients with underlying nutrient deficiency (Vitamins B12). It also has the potential for addiction with the likelihood of severe harm and death.

“The use of the drug can also compromise breathing which can kill in less than 10 minutes. This mandates that Nitrous Oxide is used strictly by trained personal (Anesthesiologists) who have the requisite knowledge and skill to manage its side effects in a hospital environment,” they explained.

According to the doctors and anesthetists, they are in full support of the action by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) to clamp down on the illicit use of the drug across the country.

“GAS, the professional body of all Doctor Anesthetists (Anesthesiologists) in Ghana and the GMA, fully support the Food and Drugs Authority in its clampdown on the illicit use of Nitrous Oxide. GAS and GMA call on the Police and other security agencies to join in this endeavor as a matter of urgency in the interest of public safety,” they stated.

FDA Alarm

The Food and Drugs Authority sounded the alarm earlier in January, this year.

A statement issued by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the authority, Delese Mimi Darko, on Tuesday, January 24, warned that the misuse of this gas is “extremely” hazardous and can cause low blood pressure, heart attack and anemia.

“Abusers of Nitrous Oxide gas are also prone to the risk of suffocating and loss of consciousness,” the statement said.

It added that long-term exposure to this gas, especially at recreational events, could compromise one’s immune system, trigger mental and neurological disorders, depression and incontinence.

The authority has, therefore, begun to address this emerging safety concerns by collaborating with relevant stakeholders, including the police.

“The FDA strongly admonishes nightclubs, pubs and party organizers to desist from the inappropriate use of Nitrous Oxide gas in their facilities.”

In the meantime, it said that nightclubs, pubs and organizers of parties had been warned to desist from the abuse of laughing gas, while it urged the public to report the abuse to the right authorities.

The public has also been urged to promptly report any abuse of the gas to the authority, as it expresses commitment to ensure public health safety.

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