Dangers of Mixing Nitrous Oxide and Alcohol

doctor taking notes on alcohol addiction

Noz – better known as nitrous oxide in the medical world – has become a substance of abuse over the years.

Noz is actually an inhalant, and it is abused primarily through pressurized containers than it is via a tube connected to a tank of nitrous oxide (the way it is used in a hospital). An example of this would be pressurized cans of whipped cream; when abused in this way, it is known as a whippet.

Part of the danger involved with abusing nitrous oxide in this way is that it is readily available to almost anyone. Even a child can walk into a grocery store and buy this product; then, they can take it home and get high. In addition, alcohol is readily available in most American homes. In 2014, the results of a nationwide survey noted that 71 percent of American people reported having drunk alcohol in the year prior, per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Mixing alcohol with noz can be deadly.

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Common Users of Alcohol and Nitrous Oxide

Since both noz and alcohol are sedatives, the risk of respiratory depression and loss of consciousness may be elevated when combining them. That being said, the sedative effects of noz are somewhat confusing since the drug also brings with it effects that people commonly see with uppers. The drug is known for inducing laughter and causing people to feel free, light, floaty, and giggly. This is often the reason people use it alongside alcohol, especially if they typically become depressed when drinking.

  • People who suffer from mental illness may be inclined to try this method of drug abuse. Helpguide reports 37 percent of people who abuse alcohol and 53 percent of people who abuse drugs also struggle with mental health disorders. Often, individuals who live with disorders like anxiety or clinical depression end up exacerbating the side effects of their illness when they drink alcohol. In an effort to counter those effects, they reach for something that could lighten their mood and their body: nitrous oxide.
  • It is also typical that teens and twentysomethings who are interested in experimenting with drugs may do this. In many cases, the drug is referred to as laughing gas more often than noz or nitrous oxide, and young people want to know what the hype is all about. In some cases, someone might sample both of these drugs together as a sort of party favor at a rave. This is even more common when nitrous is purchased in balloons that people can inhale noz out of similar to the way they would inhale helium. Some people question how this is possible, but nitrous oxide actually isn’t illegal to sell to adults.

Alcohol & Nitrous Oxide Side Effects

Short-Term Side Effects

Initially, nitrous oxide will make the person using it feel giddy, happy and excited. They may find practically everything they look at, say, or hear to be humorous. It also eliminates pain. This is why it is commonly used during dental procedures and childbirth as a pain reliever. It also causes the individual to feel somewhat weightless like they are floating. In high enough doses, people may experience nitrous oxide hallucinations and auditory delusions. There are additional side effects besides the preferable effects people abuse noz for, such as:

  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Visual disturbances
  • Hearing things that aren’t really there

Long-Term Side Effects

Over time, abusing noz and alcohol can lead to serious consequences. While under the influence of either substance, clumsiness is a strong likelihood. Individuals may be even more at risk of accidents – especially behind the wheel – than they are when abusing either substance alone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes 16 percent of drivers involved in crashes in one study were found to be positive for drugs. In the United States, it is estimated that three people die every two hours on American roadways as a result of accidents where alcohol was a factor, per the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Nitrous oxide also causes some people to develop debilitating headaches that may be accompanied by a feeling of pressure that can’t be relieved and auras in the visual plane. The biggest side effect when mixing it with alcohol is that it causes many people to throw up. This can be particularly risky if the individual has been abusing a lot of alcohol that leads them to pass out. Many people who die from alcohol- and drug-related causes actually fall asleep first and then vomit in their sleep. This leads to aspiration of the stomach contents for many who have passed out on their backs.

One of the downfalls for those who abuse noz is that it wears off fast. In fact, the high only lasts for about a minute. As the substance removes itself from the body fairly quickly, withdrawal also sets in sooner than it does with most substances. Since noz wears off within mere minutes, it entices people to take another hit of it repeatedly. With hit after hit, the brain is continually hammered with the inhalant.

Persistent abuse of nitrous oxide puts people at risk for injury, because many who use it aren’t prepared for how severely it may inhibit their motor control. In some cases, an individual trying to heighten their high may enclose their head in a plastic bag while inhaling noz, and this can lead to death.
Habitual use of alcohol can lead to:

  • Dependency
  • Liver damage
  • Seizures
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Insomnia
  • Gastritis
  • Delirium tremens

Both alcohol and nitrous oxide cause the depletion of B vitamins. This is even more likely in individuals who are positive for a genetic mutation known as methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). People with MTHFR who use even small amounts of nitrous oxide are much more likely to have a negative or bad reaction to nitrous oxide. The risk associated with MTHFR is so heavy because many people have it and aren’t aware that they do. MTHFR is often the catalyst that links alcohol abuse and mental illness together, per Psychology Today.

There is no good reason to abuse alcohol or nitrous oxide, and combining the two substances can be deadly. The majority of people who abuse noz do so on a recreational basis, but as with any mind-altering substance, there is room for addiction where nitrous oxide is concerned. In addition, alcoholism continues to plague the nation. Individuals who are dependent on alcohol may venture into noz abuse and then opt to use it every time they drink. This significantly increases the risk of side effects, accidents, and death.

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