In recent years, Portugal has registered a growing use of nitrous oxide, known as “laughing gas”, by young people in a recreational context, with the Portuguese authorities having seized 35 bottles of the substance since the beginning of this year.
The latest studies by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), carried out in Portugal, Denmark, Ireland, France, Lithuania, Holland and the United Kingdom conclude that the recreational use of laughing gas, which causes a feeling of euphoria and relaxation, is on the up.
The consumption of nitrous oxide, a gas that is used in hospitals and in the automotive industry, is increasingly a concern in Europe — and Portugal is no exception. Since the beginning of the year, the Portuguese authorities have seized 35 bottles and balloons of this substance.
According to the document produced by the EMCDDA entitled “Recreational use of nitrous oxide: a growing concern for Europe”, the sale, distribution and consumption of nitrous oxide in Portugal is mainly through catering and beverage establishments.
There is also “street distribution” and “spontaneous parties” held outdoors or in “private residences”, as well as through websites on the Internet or contacts on social networks.
The use of nitrous oxide for recreational purposes is not new. There are reports of the use of this gas at the end of the century in theaters, clubs and music festivals. Its popularity fluctuated over time, reaching high levels at specific times: in the late 1960s and in the 1990s, when the substance began to be used in 'raves' and then clubs and music festivals.
In Portugal, the consumption of this substance concerned the authorities so much that in September of this year, “laughing gas” became part of the list of banned psychoactive substances , with the distribution and sale of the product being prohibited.
According to the report by the European observatory, the “growing popularity” of nitrous oxide can be explained by the ease of acquiring the substance, which is available in “small cartridges” that are used to fill balloons from which the gas is inhaled.
These cartridges are normally used as aerosol propellants to make whipped cream (chantilly), being easy to obtain in convenience stores and supermarkets, and through the Internet. Factors such as the low price, the short-term effects and the general “perception” of consumers that it is a “relatively safe” drug also explain the increase in consumption.