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Dctors Warn Against Recreational Use of Nitrous Oxide


Posted on Feb 13, 2012

By Sara Belsole
COLUMBUS, GA - Seven were injured and one was killed in this five-car accident at the intersection of Buena Vista Road and Floyd Road last weekend.
20-year-old Jacob Keller was behind the well of a Ford Explorer that police say rear ended another car, causing a domino effect. 55-year-old Willie Lawrence was killed in the wreck.
Keller's  friend and passenger 27-year-old Kyle Ojeda admitted to police they took shots of whiskey and inhaled nitrous oxide before getting behind the wheel.
"If someone was to inhale nitrous oxide, the fist thing people would see is some kind of confusion and in excess it can actually displace the oxygen in your body causing you to pass out. So obviously operating heavy machinery or driving a car would be very dangerous because it's a disassociate drug," Emergency room doctor Michael Hagues says.
Nitrous oxide is commonly known as "laughing gas" and is used in surgery and dentistry for anesthetic effects.
"The type used in a dentist office, it is mixed with oxygen, so if the oxygen was to run out you could actually asphyxiate and die," Hagues says.
Nitrous oxide is also used in car engines. It was first used in World War II to fuel fighter planes and now you will see it around the race track to boost speed.
"In the racing world, nitrous is an additive that we ingest into our motors that allows us to burn more fuel to give us extra horsepower," race car driver Dan Parker says.
And race car drivers say they understand that nitrous is a dangerous chemical.
"We have fresh air systems in our race cars and in our helmets so if there is a nitrous line break or an explosion we have our own fresh air system to prevent inhaling any smoke, fire or nitrous," Parker says.
Over the years, police say they have seen nitrous oxide used for drug purposes, like inhaling it out of a whipped cream can.
"Nitrous that you would sniff off a canister or from a doctor's office, it's pretty potent so even a small amount can cause symptoms," Hagues says.
"I see the other side of nitrous that allows me to competitively race in the world, so to see people abusing it for anything less than that just gives nitrous a bad name and a bad reputation," Parker says.
 
Keller is being held on a $56,000 bond, Ojeda on a $7,200.

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Shane Smith
Advocate for the Seriously Injured in Georgia