Laughing gas (N2O) in The Netherlands: where a quick rise in use required action
The Netherlands experienced a sharp rise in the use of laughing gas (N2O) after a change in the legal status from the Medicines Act to the Dutch Commodities Law in 2016. This required action from policy-makers and prevention professionals on the local and national level. In this presentation we will focus on a number of these actions and associated challenges.
Data from different sources were integrated to gain insight in developments regarding laughing gas use in The Netherlands. These include a National Risk assessment, national monitoring studies, online surveys and qualitative interview studies with users and practitioners in the field.
Laughing gas is particularly popular among young individuals, e.g. in students aged 12-16 years life-time use has increased from 7,8% in 2015 to 9,9% in 2019. Users perceive laughing gas as low-risk. They use it for its short-acting high and to have a good time during social gatherings. While the potential negative health consequences were regarded to be limited in 2016, nowadays an increasing number of reports demonstrate the potential (serious) health risks, including addiction, spinal cord injury and car accidents. A development of concern is the use of laughing gas from cylinders instead of canisters. This has contributed to a higher incidence of compulsive use and health incidents. A change in legislative status has been proposed, which is planned to be implemented in 2022.
Efforts from governments and the prevention workforce in the last couple of years are aimed at limiting both availability and demand. Future opportunities lie in developing prevention strategies at the local level and strengthening the social environment of young users and high-risk groups.