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Laughing Gas

Inhalation Sedation (Laughing Gas)

Inhalation sedation, laughing gas, relative analgesia, RA, happy gas, gas and air, nitrous, nitrous oxide, N2O-O2… this one has more names than any other sedation technique! And deservedly so. Inhalation sedation with nitrous oxide (N2O) and oxygen (O2) has been described as “representing the most nearly ‘ideal’ clinical sedative circumstance”…

What is it? And what does it do?

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is simply a gas which you can breathe in. It has no color, smell, and doesn’t irritate. It was discovered in 1772. Humphrey Davy (1778-1829), one of the pioneers of N2O experimentation, described the effects of N2O on himself following self-administration for a toothache and gum infection as follows:

It kills pain – and it induces a pleasurable feeling. After 5 minutes or so of breathing in the gas, you should feel a euphoric feeling spread throughout your body. It really kind of feels like a ‘happy drunk’ feeling. Some people find that there are auditory or visual effects as well. You will feel a bit light headed and often people get ‘the giggles’ (hence the name laughing gas!). As an interesting aside, nitrous oxide was one of the drugs of choice for young people in the late 1700s and early 1800s, when laughing gas demonstrations were a popular source of entertainment and enjoyment.