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Aid workers say addiction to laughing gas is ‘exploding’

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Addiction specialists are warning of a sharp increase in youth addicted to nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, according to Trouw. Conventional treatments do not work well on those addicted to the substance, who are now numbering around 10 percent of patients in at least one addiction care clinic.

The drug, which is legal to sell in canister form in the Netherlands despite bans from some municipalities, can cause serious brain damage and is highly addictive, experts told Trouw. The relapse rate for young people treated for laughing gas addiction is also higher than with other substances.

“In this, this group of young people really distinguishes itself from young people with another addiction. They still remember what they experienced, but wave it further away, downplay it,” Marianne Post, a psychiatrist at addiction care center Brijder Jeugd, told Trouw. Post thinks this could be due to the neurological damage the substance causes, although no one knows for sure.

Additionally, 95 percent of patients treated at Brijder Jeugd come from a non-Western background. The numbers are similar at Arkin Jeugd/Jellinek in Amsterdam, according to Trouw. Specialists believe this is because the sale of laughing gas is technically legal, and many young people coming from Muslim backgrounds might be less likely to use alcohol or illegal drugs. 

“Many young people arrive here in total panic, often brought by emergency services. They are psychotic, confused, very gloomy and often literally begging for admission and treatment,” Post said.

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