Business offers all-night delivery of dangerous party gas nitrous oxide N2O2

Nitrous oxide, contained in canisters like these, can be dangerous image www.druglinks.info

Nitrous oxide, contained in canisters like these, can be dangerous.

A controversial business is delivering the commonly abused gas nitrous oxide to late-night parties around Melbourne.

Drug experts says the gas can be dangerous, even deadly, and questioned the morality of any business capitalising on those abusing it.

The online startup business in question, which Fairfax Media has decided not to name, opened in May and sells small canisters of the gas, which are designed to be used in whipped cream dispensers and are know colloquially as “nangs”.

The company makes home deliveries in the Melbourne area during the prime party hours of 6pm to 3am during the week, and until 6am on Saturdays and Sundays.
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Orders can also be collected from one of four “secure stash houses” across Melbourne or sent by post.

The company also sells “metal cylindrical note holders”, which are sold elsewhere online as “nos crackers” and are used to open the gas cartridges.

While the products are legal, it is against Victorian law for someone to supply a “deleterious substance”, which includes anaesthetic gas, to anyone they believe intends to misuse it, punishable with up to two years’ jail.

It is not illegal to use the gas, but police can seize it from anyone under 18 years old.

Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is commonly used by medical professionals to sedate patients having minor procedures but experts warn of dangerous side effects when used incorrectly.

The Australian Drug Foundation says “nangs” are abused by being opened and inhaled, producing a short high in users, and warns that large amounts can cause a loss of blood pressure, fainting, heart attack and even death.

“Even though there might be some pleasurable effects, there can also be, at worst case, death, because you’re starving your brain of oxygen,” Julie Rae, the foundation’s head of information and research, said.

“Especially if you’re a young person, our brains are still developing and starving our brains of oxygen can lead to damage.”

Ms Rae said that while nitrous oxide did not rank among the most dangerous drugs, it affected every person differently and she questioned the ethics behind the cartridge-delivery company.

“The question for me is, is this an ethical business? Who are they really targeting on this?” she said.

The nang delivery company’s terms and conditions state that customers must be over the age of 18 and must agree to use the gas only “in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations”.

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

However, it appears to be doing a reasonable trade, with its website selling out of canisters last week before being restocked for the weekend.

Nitrous oxide use is growing in Australia, according to the the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, which found that half the 1000 ecstasy and psychostimulant users it interviewed this year had used the gas before.

A quarter had done so in the first half of 2015, according to early figures.

Victoria had the highest rate of use, with half of those interviewed saying they had used the drug in the past six months – a marked increase from 22 per cent in 2012.

Nationally, 26 per cent of respondents said they had used the gas in the past six months, compared to 21 per cent in 2012.

The Global Drug Survey, a Britain-based research organisation, says that using laughing gas is often harmless but can become dangerous when combined with other drugs, including alcohol.

Its 2015 survey of 7000 users showed 7.5 per cent reporting concerns about how nitrous oxide affected their health, triple the number of the previous year.

The survey also showed 4 per cent of nitrous oxide users report symptoms consistent with peripheral neuropathy – or nerve damage – including body numbness and shooting pain in limbs that lasted for weeks after use.

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Henry Sapiecha

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