Physicians have produced new protocols for diagnosing and managing spinal damage in response to nitrous oxide abuse.
A surge in the use of Nitrous Oxide, more popularly known as “nos” and “laughing gas” in recent years, has been accompanied by a rise in cases concerning it.
In response to a study by healthcare professionals at the Barts Heath NHS Trust in London, the Association of British Neurologists has implemented guidelines based on the report’s findings.
Medical practitioners- such as doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals- are provided with an obvious way to diagnose and treat subacute combined spinal cord degeneration. This results from the recreational overuse of a specific drug, which can potentially cause long-term damage and disability in young individuals.
Before this, no protocols had been established for this affliction, resulting in incorrect diagnoses and improper treatments.
Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) indicates that nitrous oxide, a widely used recreational drug among UK youth, was used by 8.7% of adults aged 16 to 24 in the 12 months before March 2020. Additionally, 2.4% of adults between 16 and 59 reported using nitrous oxide during the same period.
According to Alastair Noyce, a Professor in Neurology and Neuroepidemiology at Queen Mary, University of London and head author of the paper, they crafted these guidelines intending to provide constant care for those who have experienced recreational nitrous oxide use.
He went on to say that, when done correctly, patients can access the care they require.
It is expected that these measures will reduce the load on hospitals by making the emergency department more efficient and decreasing the number of unnecessary hospital admissions.
Tom Warner, the President of the Association of British Neurologists, stated that the use of nitrous oxide for recreational purposes has a considerable danger associated with it, particularly for the spinal cord. However, this can be treated if identified in time.
He highlighted the need for these essential clinical practice guidelines that would enable the appropriate identification, diagnosis and, most significantly, treatment of individuals presenting at emergency departments with such symptoms to avoid any long-term neurological impairment.