Citation: Edward H.. "Getting in Trouble for Using Nitrous Medicinally: An Experience with Nitrous Oxide (exp23397)". Erowid.org. Apr 30, 2003. erowid.org/exp/23397
I suppose the 'general prohibition' line in the Erowid Nitrous Law Vault should have tipped me off, but I made the mistake of assuming that the prohibition of nitrous oxide in Oregon would extend to sellers, not just the consumers. I purchased my nitrous oxide in the form of 8g 'whippets' at a local pawn/head shop under the impression that it would be rather legal. I figured that it wouldn't be smart to go around advertising the fact that I was consuming it in ways other than how it was intended to be consumed, but it was that false sense of security that ended up getting me in quite a bit of trouble.
I'm a high school student who suffers from rather severe cluster headaches, and I found that nitrous oxide is a very effective abortive when oxygen is not available. Because of issues with both my primary care physician and my medical insurance provider, I was unable to obtain any of the mainstream cluster headache treatments such as oxygen or triptans. While my original interest in nitrous oxide was admittedly recreational, I soon discovered that it was also a cranial vasodilator. After researching the matter quite a bit more extensively, I decided to try it out on myself. After inhaling a single 8g canister of compressed nitrous oxide, the anesthetic properties of the nitrous oxide would numb the headache right away, and the residual vasodilator properties would allow for an increased amount of oxygen-rich intracranial blood flow once I began to inhale normal air once again. That oxygen effectively aborted my cluster attack, and while I often had a low, dull headache afterwards, it was a MUCH better alternative than a cluster attack. I always took vitamin B supplements that contained high amounts of vitamin B12 on days when I used the nitrous therapy, just to be especially safe.
I didn't make a big deal about having the nitrous at all; as I said, I didn't want to take any unnecessary risks. I'd usually have my cracker/balloon and some nitrous on me in a little package, but I'd never carry around more than two canisters at any given time. If I felt a cluster attack coming on, I'd slip the package into my jacket pocket and ask to use the restroom, walk to the one locking restroom in our school, use a single canister, and return to class within three minutes with no outwardly intoxicated signs on me other than the possibility of a content smile.
Unfortunately, when I was in that restroom on the 18th, the school security guard happened to be walking by, and he heard me inhaling from and exhaling into the balloon. He probably thought that I was having an asthma attack or something of the sort, so he knocked on the door to make sure that I was okay. I was peaking at that point, so I wasn’t sure if I had actually heard the knock or not. He knocked a second time, and I deflated the balloon, shoved it into my pocket, and hid everything as best as I could, and came out. He asked if I was okay and what I was doing, and it was obvious that I was under the influence of something. Because I thought that what I was doing was perfectly legal (although I knew it would be inarguably punished by the school), I told him briefly about my cluster headaches and about how I used the nitrous oxide to treat them. Understandably, it looked pretty bad, so he took me down to the office, and I consented to a search and explained everything to them again. They called in two drug counselors who were both _totally_ ignorant about nitrous oxide. They went on about how I was suffocating my brain, and about how this was no better than “huffing” glue fumes. I tried to explain that nitrous oxide was a safe, pharmacokinetic chemical that had plenty of legitimate medical uses. They entirely denied everything that I presented to them, and chose not to accept my medical use of the nitrous, and understandably so. Our school has an absolutely pathetic drug record, and it’s not every day someone as educated in the matters as myself is presented to the administrators. I’m actually seeking out a higher education and career in neurology and possibly neuropsychadelics, and am hoping to study under Rick Strassman, M.D. (the author of DMT, The Sprit Molecule) at the University of New Mexico, and because of this, I’m already very knowledgeable about topics in the field. I think that the administrators and drug counselors took my knowledge as an inherent threat, and immediately called the police.
When the police arrived, I spoke with him, and still under the impression that my acts were legal, told him so. He came straight out and told me that I was wrong, and I submitted, figuring that even though he may be incorrect, arguing with a police officer would not look good on a record or a report. Even though I assured him that I believed him, he insisted upon pulling out his pocket-sized manual and showing me an act containing a list of illegal inhalants. (I found the exact act online here: http://www.leg.state.or.us/99orlaws/sess0200.dir/0229ses.html .) Sure enough, nitrous oxide was on the list. At first he said that he wasn’t going to arrest me, but when the vice principal of the school informed him that they found prescription pills on me during my consented bag search (just Claritin-D, which is actually OTC now, a piece of the exit that eventually saved me a fine and some juvenile jail time), he reconsidered. I was maintaining a polite and rather professional attitude throughout the entire encounter, and I asked to see the handbook again to look over the law. Section 1, Part 2 in the law caught my eye: “It is unlawful for a person to possess any inhalant if the person intends to use the inhalant for the purpose of inducing intoxication in the person who possesses the inhalant or for the purpose of inducing intoxication in any other person.”
It took a bit of talking, but eventually I got the police officer to agree to let me off based upon a few facts. First, this was a first offense and I have a completely clean record, omitting this. Second, my knowledge about cluster headaches and nitrous oxide’s effects upon cluster headaches (which was further reinforced by calling up a few choice reference pages on cluster headache information) showed that I was using nitrous oxide for medicinally-oriented purposes, if not for strictly medical causes, not for intoxication (a la Section 1, Part 2). Third, I only had one nitrous canister on me, and I stated that most people who use nitrous for strictly recreational purposes carry multiple canisters because of nitrous oxide’s short duration. Fourth, I was totally cooperative and professional throughout the entire ordeal. Finally, the Claritin-D that I possessed was recently approved for over-the-counter sale, so it was no longer classified as a prescription medication.
My possession of “inhalants” was undeniable, as was my possession of over-the-counter drugs, and because of this, I received an automatic ten-day suspension from school. Every day for the rest of my high school career, my bags will be searched in the morning, and I will be subjected to both random and scheduled urine analyses and bag searches. Luckily, this won’t be more than an annoyance; I have a personal grudge against marijuana and don’t have any desire to do any cocaine, amphetamine, opiate, or PCP-based drugs. Still, it would have been nice to avoid this hindrance.
I hope that some of what I’ve said will come to be of use for some people. I know that Oregon is not the only state that has a “general prohibition” of “inhalants”, and I’d hate to see other people without as much on-hand information or as many exits as myself be put into my position.
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