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Minister urges strict control of popular party drug ‘laughing gas’

Germany’s health minister Karl Lauterbach plans to introduce stricter rules to curb the sale of nitrous oxide, also called laughing gas, especially to young people.

The drug, which is used in medicine as an anaesthetic and for pain reduction, has become a popular party drug among young people in Germany.

The sale and consumption of nitrous oxide is not restricted under current law. “We will institute a regulation quickly,” Lauterbach said on Friday.

Among the possibilities is including nitrous oxide in the list of psychoactive substances, which come with very stringent rules for sale and possession.

He said that a complete ban would not be possible because nitrous oxide is also used for industrial purposes.

“We are now tackling this very quickly,” assured the minister. Lauterbach urged parents to educate their children while awaiting the government’s necessary action.

“It may sound fun and harmless, but it’s not,” the minister warned. Regular consumption could lead to accidents or even neurological damage, and permanent damage cannot be ruled out either, he said.

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“It’s dangerous for children and young people,” said Lauterbach.

Cologne-based physician Volker Limmroth said that tough restrictions are needed to control the availability of nitrous oxide. So far, it has been legal, cheap, and available, he said.

“They now even have it at the kiosk next to every school. And that has to stop. The availability must be interrupted,” he said.

“An anaesthetic does not belong on general sale, it belongs in the hands of doctors and not between the gummy bears.”

The German Society of Neurology has recently also warned of the dangers of nitrous oxide and that recreational consumption of the drug is increasing, particularly among teenagers and young adults. (dpa/NAN)

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