Vietnam considers adding laughing gas to banned narcotic list

By Phan Anh   May 18, 2019 | 07:48 pm PT
Vietnam considers adding laughing gas to banned narcotic list
A Vietnamese youth inhales a balloon filled with laughing gas at a nightclub in Hanoi. Photo by AFP/File
Vietnam could become the first country to designate laughing gas as an illegal narcotic.

The Ministry of Public Security has said the sale and use of laughing gas balloons for recreational purpose in Vietnam are dangerous and potentially deadly, and there needs to be tougher punishment for them.

In response to a resident's question regarding the control of laughing gas, the ministry said on its website earlier this month that it would closely monitor the import, management and sales of nitrous oxide (N2O), and demand guarantees from distributors that the chemical would not be used on humans.

After identifying the extent to which laughing gas is used recreationally and considering existing international regulations, it would seek to add nitrous oxide to the list of known narcotics and precursors to suitably punish the illegal sale, transport and production of the substance, it said.

Nitrous oxide is capable of inducing feelings of euphoria due to its impact on the neurological system, and so can be used as a recreational stimulant.

But overuse may lead to memory or sleep disorders and a tingly sensation at the extremities, among other effects.

The substance has been involved in numerous drug incidents in Vietnam, some deadly. Last year seven people died of an overdose at a Hanoi electronic music festival, prompting authorities to suspend all music festivals in the capital until further notice. The police confirmed that balloons containing nitrous oxide were present at the scene.

Nitrous oxide is however listed as a chemical regulated by the Ministry of Industry and Trade and has practical applications as an anesthesia in medicine among other uses.

Violating regulations relating to its production or sale could result in a fine of VND12-25 million ($515-1,070).

No country in the world has listed nitrous oxide as a narcotic. The sale of nitrous oxide for recreational use is prohibited in Australia and the U.K. and many U.S. states have laws regulating its possession, sale, and distribution. But the substance is legal and wildly available in many countries.

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