Centre of Expertise Urban Vitality

Problematic Use of Nitrous Oxide by Young Moroccan–Dutch Adults


The recreational use of nitrous oxide (N2O; laughing gas) has largely expanded in recent years. Although incidental use of nitrous oxide hardly causes any health damage, problematic or heavy use of nitrous oxide can lead to serious adverse effects. Amsterdam care centres noticed that Moroccan–Dutch young adults reported neurological symptoms, including severe paralysis, as a result of problematic nitrous oxide use. In this qualitative exploratory study, thirteen young adult Moroccan–Dutch excessive nitrous oxide users were interviewed. The determinants of problematic nitrous oxide use in this ethnic group are discussed, including their low treatment demand with respect to nitrous oxide abuse related medical–psychological problems. Motives for using nitrous oxide are to relieve boredom, to seek out relaxation with friends and to suppress psychosocial stress and negative thoughts. Other motives are depression, discrimination and conflict with friends or parents. The taboo culture surrounding substance use—mistrust, shame and macho culture—frustrates timely medical/psychological treatment of Moroccan–Dutch problematic nitrous oxide users. It is recommended to use influencers in media campaigns with the aim to decrease the risks of heavy nitrous oxide use and improve treatment access. Outreach youth workers can also play an important role in motivating socially isolated users to seek medical and or psychological help.

Reference Nabben, T., Weijs, J., & van Amsterdam, J. (2021). Problematic Use of Nitrous Oxide by Young Moroccan–Dutch Adults. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(11), Article 5574. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18115574
1 June 2021

Publication date

Jun 2021


Jelmer Weijs
Jan van Amsterdam


Research database