Government urged to speed up regulations on laughing gas after recent death caused by recreational use

The Industrial Development Bureau of the Ministry of Economic Affairs was urged to speed up tightening regulations on the sale of nitrous oxide today, after a recent fatality related to its use as a recreational drug brought the issue to public attention.

New Power Party legislator Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), speaking to the Economics Committee of the Legislative Yuan urged the Industrial Development Bureau to not be idle on the task after fatality in Taoyuan City on November 11 was revealed to be the third case of death related to laughing gas in the city in the last six months.

At around noon, November 11, staff at a Taoyuan City motel located on Nanping Road entered a room after the occupants failed to check out on time, and did not respond to calls. Inside the room, the staff found two naked people unconscious.

A 17-year-old girl named Sheng (盛 ) was sitting at the end of the bed with her head propped in her hands, facing the ceiling with a look of tortured laughter on her face. Sheng was found to have died some time ago, being in a state of rigor mortis, while a 20-year-old man named Xiong (熊 ), also naked, was laying on the bed unconscious, but breathing.

A subsequent investigation found that Mr Xiong had rented the suite late in the evening of November 10. Various people were seen coming and going from the motel room during the night. At around 5:00am, Ms Sheng was seen entering the room.

Investigators found four coffee packs that had contained drug mixtures, six balloons (used to administer laughing gas), and two almost empty nitrous oxide cylinders in the room.

Tests of the drug mixtures found that the packs contained category two level drugs, but not of a high potency. It is suspected that Sheng and Xiong had succumbed to the effects of nitrous oxide, rather than an overdose of drugs.

After recovering, Mr Xiong confessed to using and administering category two drugs, and nitrous oxide. Xiong was transferred to the Taoyuan City Prosecutor’s Office to face charges of breaching drug prevention regulations, and negligent death. Mr Xiong was then released on NT$10,000 bail.

Taiwan’s medical community called on the government to more strictly regulate controls on nitrous oxide in March 2019, according to a report at Radio Taiwan International. Medical professionals were concerned about permanent physical damage suffered by teenagers who used the gas for recreational purposes.

The report stated that in the past six years, nine teenagers have been diagnosed with nerve degeneration caused by use of nitrous oxide.

Mr Hsu today urged the Industrial Bureau not to succumb to bureaucratic slack on the issue.

According to a United Daily News report, the use of laughing gas has become more popular, as it is relatively cheap, and its use is not a violation of drugs prevention laws.

A six kilogram cylinder of nitrous oxide can be purchased for NT$2,000, with a cylinder deposit of NT$1,000. People caught under the influence of laughing gas can only be found in violation of the Social Order Maintenance Law.

According to other reports, cylinders of nitrous oxide can be ordered online. In New Taipei City one outlet promises delivery within 30 minutes.

young people in a KTV room and nitrous oxide in Keelung City, July 2019.
A group of young people at a KTV in Keelung City, Taiwan, using nitrous oxide in July 2019.
artists impression of news story on EBC news Taiwan.
Diagram produced by EBC News Taiwan to illustrate story about underaged girl dying in motel from suspected overdose of laughing gas.
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