NOS Nitrous Oxide – Laughing Gas Health Safety vs Dangers?

Nitrous Oxide (NOS) Review – Worth Using?

Nitrous Oxide – The Laughing Gas

Most of us, when thinking about Nitrous Oxide think about happy, laughing people who are out of control of their thoughts and bodies. We all know laughing gas as something simple, that dentists use to help with pain. Not many of us realize how very important this gas is or how it has changed modern medicine or fuel processes all over the world.

We just picture in our mind's eye sitting back in the dentist chair with a mask on our face being asked to count down from 20. Then we are gone, into the nothingness only to be awoken by our own laughter. But Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) isn’t always a joking matter. There is so much more to this gas than one might first perceive.

Nitrous oxide has a significant history and is one of the most depended on fuels and gases in the world and it has been around the longest.

Get to Know Nitrous Oxide (NOS)

Nitrous Oxide, commonly referred to as NOS, is a gas heated by ammonium nitrate which creates an aromatic gas with a sweet odor but no color. It is, of course, most commonly used as the anesthetic you ready yourself for when you go to the dentist but it can be used in so many other ways, such as regular surgery, as well as deep diving, racing, even in dairy and other food products.

It is a fuel additive, and aerosol propellant. Then, there are some cases, (though it isn’t recommended) you will find a community of individuals who use Nitrous Oxide for recreational purposes. This is a very dangerous practice and should not be done, but these things do happen.

The History of Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide was first brought into play by a philosopher as well as a chemist known as Joseph Priestley all the way back in 1772. At the time that he synthesized it, he called the substance ‘phlogisticated nitrous air.’

Other Important Players In The History Of NOS

When one thinks of the history of Nitrous Oxide and its uses in medicine, one cannot ignore the significant impact of two men just under 20 years later. James Watt and Thomas Beddoes played a huge role modernizing medical techniques which we still use today with Nitrous Oxide. Prior to their diving into the unknown when preparing for surgery, patients were still having to chew on leather straps when getting limbs removed. They had to make due with just drinking copious amounts of alcohol or deal with Ether, before a procedure because they knew there was going to be no hope of relief.

The discovery made by Watts and Beddoes eventually revolutionized the way pain relief is handled.

These two men wrote many famous works together, particularly in 1794. In their collection of works they focused on being able to create machines that would move nitrous oxide, and many other gasses directly into a patient, without them having to make a significantly conscious effort to breathe it in.

They set their focus on creating a breathing apparatus to go with the gas so that a patient who might already be nervous going into surgery, wouldn’t have to deal with excess needles or pain killers during procedures, but would simply have to breathe in to take the medicinal effects into their body.

Their partnered works also credited them with discovering brand new theories in medicine such as being able to cure lung related diseases by inhaling these gases, such as Nitrous Oxide. Unfortunately, those were very superstitious times and not many in the medical profession believed that something which couldn’t necessarily be seen by the naked eye could actually provide healing to a patient. It took 44 years before the medical profession started to slowly incorporate this gas into their procedures.

What Is Nitrous Oxide Used For?

Already, knowing that Nitrous Oxide makes you laugh, the gas sounds fun and enticing.

The main purpose of this gas in the medical profession is to kill pain and bring joy or a pleasurable sensation in the body. This is true across the board.

If you spend five minutes breathing in Nitrous Oxide you automatically begin to feel completely euphoric. This is a feeling one might get when they initially fall in love, or when they have had a true and pure moment of happiness.

Or if one was to say, have one too many pints in the pub, you feel a happy buzz. This is how Nitrous Oxide affects the body.

Through to the early 1800’s Nitrous oxide was passed around at parties for the entertainment of all present. This is also when the term, ‘Laughing Gas,’ was coined.

Technically, Nitrous Oxide is often prepared by heating up what is called ammonium nitrate which eventually creates water vapor and Nitrous oxide when it decomposes. When phosphates are involved, the pure gas is born when you cook it at lower temperatures.

Nitrous oxide is therefore composed of:

  • NH
  • 4NO
  • 3 (s) → 2 H
  • 2O (g) + N
  • 2O (g)

Since Nitrous Oxide is neuroprotective, it can be very dangerous in high doses because it inhibits glutamate-induced excitotoxicity. It is very wise to pay attention how to safely work with it. Often the most dangerous part is that it can cause asphyxiation. It can also cause cause a slowing or dulling of mental function as well as shortness of breath.

Blood pressure can be significantly lowered enough that it can cause heart attacks. And this is with accidental overdoses in the medical profession, speaking nothing of the amount of individuals dying because they use it recreationally. In high doses, this is a toxic gas, let that not be forgotten.

In the medical profession the gas is distributed in small percentages as well as balanced by oxygen and monitored by a professional. Without that process in place, it is difficult to ever be able to tell how much gas you are taking in, or if it might be lethal.

Medical uses

Nitrous oxide isn’t just for pulling teeth! The medical industry of course has found many uses for it, and new uses are being discovered every day.

However, we’ll start with the dental industry.

When used medically one might experience:

  • Some form of confusion both related to time and space
  • A throbbing in the ear
  • Seeing things that aren’t there
  • Sudden life revelations
  • Deep voice (differing from the way helium raises the voice up)
  • Getting stuck focusing on one object and being unable to look away.


As commonly understood, Nitrous Oxide is still, to this day an exceptionally crucial part of Dentistry as an anesthetic. This began in 1845, and quickly took root. Within just a few short years over 25,000 patients had been successfully ‘knocked out’ by Nitrous Oxide and they were able to have pain free root canals and teeth pulling experiences.

Now, it is important to note that not everyone subscribed to this gas when it was initially picking up speed. Hospitals of course were very careful not to bring in anything new, and stuck with Ether for a very long time when it came to putting patients ‘under’ for significant surgeries.

If you have ever been afraid of the dentist, imagine what it would have been like back then before Nitrous Oxide was used! Let us all heave a sigh of relief for medical progress!


 There is nothing more painful than getting drilled in the teeth at the dentist. Even thinking about it causes PTSD flashbacks. This is why Nitrous oxide is used so widespread as a pain medicine and was a giant relief worldwide after its discovery. Many recounted their first time using this gas as being ‘warm all over,’ and ‘comforted, or full of happy feelings.’

When a person is experiencing a significant amount of pain, knowing that you have something you can depend on is a big deal. Nitrous Oxide filled the gap between alcohol and medicine because it gives the overall good feelings that alcohol gives, but doesn’t last as long, doesn’t hurt the liver, and relieves the pain better in a more healthy way when administered correctly.

In addition, since the gas leaves your body so quickly upon administering (5 minutes) not only is it mostly not habit forming, but your body can’t get immune to it, or gain a tolerance like many other pain medications. When you use this gas for pain relief, it really works.


Nitrous Oxide and Anxiety

Anxiety when going into hospitals, going to the dentist, seeing your doctor for any procedure is widespread among the human population. Some individuals are so nervous they have panic attacks in the doctor’s chairs before anything has even happened. In many circumstances Nitrous Oxide is used to calm down anxiety, allowing the medical practitioner to do their work.

Other Uses

In addition to medicinal and pharmaceutical use, NOS has a number of other real world applications, both in and out of the hospital or dentist’s office. Let’s take a look at some of these purposes now.


Mostly illegal now, NOS has been used in the diving profession so as to make sure divers are ready for what it will feel like to experience nitrogen narcosis. Nitrogen narcosis happens when you become drowsy after breathing high levels of air which is being pressured by the atmosphere. This is highly dangerous though as many cases of drowning have happened for those who use Nitrous Oxide while swimming.

They aren’t as able to differentiate between objects close to them, or even be able to figure out which way was up and which was down.


There are many all over the world that have experienced Nitrous in one way or another. More commonly used in dentistry of course.

When distributing Nitrous Oxide, it is crucial to deliver it in a 2 to 1 ratio to keep the patient safe and free of overdosing. You can tell a person has overdosed if they get nauseated during the procedure or have a terrible headache when they wake up.

Food Products

A growing industry at the moment is using Nitrous to mix or create foam in dairy products. The gas helps the dairy stave off bacteria and also stops it from getting rancid. It also doesn’t influence the flavor of the product but instead becomes a part of the cream because of the fat contents and expands the product. Any of your favorite spray whipped cream is influenced by Nitrous and has a cartridge inside of it.


One wouldn’t imagine it to be possible  that Nitrous, something that is meant to relieve pain would be so useful when it comes to racing cards. But in fact it is used as a safe fuel option because it turns into gas after it has hit 21% oxygen per unit volume which means in the end, the gas lasts longer and so the driver gets more mileage.


Lastly mentioned is the talk of recreation. When Nitrous oxide is used in a recreational way, it is for the purpose of getting high really fast.

Fuel Additive

Nitrous oxide is so multi-purposeful it can even be used as fuel for a rocket motor because it is used in the same way as other oxidizers. When it decomposes it can be breathed in similar to oxygen so it is safe instead of having that fuel smell remain in the air.

Aerosol Propellant

Nitrous Oxide in the food industry is called additive E942 and is referred to as an aerosol spray propellant. It is extremely soluble when added to fat which makes it very ideal in cooking.

With whipped cream the foam is created by the gas and becomes bigger than the volume of the liquid would have been on it’s own. Unfortunately the process doesn’t last very long and as a result whipped cream doesn’t stay solid for long as the gas wears off and then the substance turns back into liquid.

The Pros and Cons of Using Nitrous Oxide for Medical and Recreational Purposes:


— Nitrous oxide is works faster than other pain medications/stimulants. This gas affects the brain within just 20 seconds, and by 2 minutes, the pain relief is able to kick in.

— With professional care the level at which you are sedated can be controlled and can be changed at any moment to make sure the patient is healthy and safe.

— Once the time frame necessary for sedation goes away, the gas leaves the body pretty much as soon as it’s job is done and the body isn’t getting anymore consistently pumped into it.

— No leftovers – Providing that a professional has balanced out the mix of gas and oxygen, you should awake from your procedure with no hangover at all. You should be able to come almost entirely back to yourself. Many don’t need help driving home once the effects have completely worn off.

— Use Nitrous Oxide in lieu of contemporary local anesthesia. This is because it acts similar to a pain killer and calms down the soft tissues in the body. If you are getting your gums worked on for example, Nitrous oxide works better when it comes to calming that inflamed tissue down.

— No needles are required!

— No negative internal, or long term effects. You won’t have to worry about your internal organs being destroyed upon inhaling.


— Being out of control is a disconcerting part of being on Nitrous Oxide for medical reasons. You will find that you won’t have control over your limbs, or your emotional/physical responses.

— If you are the type to be nauseated easily, often one of the side effects of Nitrous oxide is random vomiting as a result of over sensitivity or over dosing.

— Some individuals may not actually get to experience the level of sedation that they need which means that they won’t be 100% pain free, and you might not be able to say anything about it because you will be slightly inebriated.

— You might have a hard time breathing out of your nose.

A Warning On Aerosol And Nitrous Oxide Abuse

Can Nitrous Oxide Be Dangerous?

The answer to this question is, like all things, yes, if used improperly. Outside of the disorienting effect, many who are ‘huffing’ or taking in Nitrous Oxide for recreational purposes find themselves dizzy, tripping over things, drowning, falling, cutting themselves. They don’t have a real idea of what is going on in their body which makes it dangerous.

If you are being overseen by a medical professional then the negative side effects are minimal. Be aware of yourself, and your surroundings, use caution and common sense and that will take you a long way with this gas.

The Legality Of Nitrous Oxide

As a result of Nitrous Oxide being used for so many different reasons it is not illegal to own or sell it. However in many different states, a person could get up to 15 months in prison if they are caught even intending to inhale, because it is so dangerous to do so without the supervision of a medical professional.

NOS is Used Every Day

From the late 1700’s to present day Nitrous Oxide has helped millions with their pain, as well as with their anxiety. It has helped fuel race cars and rocket ships and the creating of beautiful and delicious foods and has taken the medical profession to the next level.

Nitrous oxide has a lot of pros and cons associated with it, but the bottom line is that if you are using it right, and being overseen by a medical professional, you will have the desired results that you need.

Remember to thank your dentist next time you are in the office for employing such an excellent resource!


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