POLICE seized more than 1.5 million marijuana plants, almost 38 tons of cocaine and nearly 350 tons of hashish from Spanish dealers, as drug arrest numbers soared.

The latest statistics showed there were 20,437 drug-related arrests in Spain in 2019 and the number of fatalities related to opioid drugs has increased more than 50% in seven years. The number of organized crime gangs involved in drug trafficking in Spain was up for the third year in a row, with police aware of 504 gangs. 

However, the figures do not include the rise of nitrous oxide as a colorless gas, often referred to as laughing gas. 

Usually sold in small silver jars,   nitrous oxide is inhaled and affects everyone differently,  depending on the amount inhaled and interaction with other substances or medications.

Most users report a feeling of dissociation from their body, similar to floating, as well as distorted perceptions and, in rare cases, visual hallucinations.

The immediate effects of laughing gas include euphoria, body numbness, a feeling of sedation, dizziness, uncontrolled laughter and blurred vision. In some cases, inhaling the drug can be fatal. The effect of gas can lead to a loss of blood pressure that can lead to fainting and myocardial infarction or hypoxia from lack of oxygen.

Prolonged use can lead to side effects such as memory loss, vitamin B12 deficiency, ringing in the ears, numbness of limbs, spasms, depression, weakening of the immune system, psychosis or psychological dependence.

It is estimated that it has caused 36 deaths between 2001 and 2016 in the United Kingdom, which is why the growing consumption is worrying and health officials in Spain are concerned that the growing popularity of the drug across Spain could lead to similar fatalities. 

The Mossos d’Esquadra and the Guardia Urbana have warned that the increase in use across Spain is ‘devastating’ and said they have seen a dramatic increase in the presence of the drug in Barcelona, the Balearic Islands, Malaga, Oviedo and Ceuta. 

The problem is that since nitrous oxide is used in medicine and confectionery, including whipped cream,  it is legal to buy, store and trade with it. 

It is however illegal to sell it to people as a party drug. 

Possession of laughing gas could soon be criminalized in England and Wales after ministers commissioned a study to investigate the impact of laughing gas, now the second most consumed drug in the UK. 

Interior Minister Priti Patel wants the Advisory Council on Drug Abuse (ACMD) to review the harm caused by nitrous oxide and said she is ‘determined’ to take tough action.

“Drug abuse can have a devastating impact on lives and communities,” she said “We are determined to do everything we can to address this problem and protect the future of our children and youth.”

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