UAE Ministry of Health & Prevention issues warning about addiction of ethyl chloride spray among teenagers

H.E. Dr. Al Amiri: ‘Strict measures implemented to protect youth from getting addicted to the substance’

The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention has issued a circular to warn about the dangers of misusing ethyl chloride spray which has recently gained interest among adolescent students who have been purchasing it from various social networking sites, e-commerce websites, private pharmacies and specialty stores. The warning states that the substance is a local anaesthetic that affects the central nervous system when inhaled.

H.E. Dr. Amin Hussein Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary for the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention’s Public Policy and Licensing Sector, confirmed that the Ministry has issued a circular after monitoring the widespread use of ethyl chloride spray among adolescents. He explained that the youths, who call it a laughter gas, inhale the compound after spraying it on a piece of cloth which results in a burst of laughter or crying, followed by hallucination. He said that the product is not criminalised, low in cost compared to other drug classes, and is easily available, leading to many cases of addiction among school and university students.

The Assistant Undersecretary added that the Ministry has raised awareness about the substance and mobilized its team to take procedural and precautionary measures in coordination with the concerned authorities to contain its use as it is causing devastation to health and social life. He said that the Ministry has communicated to the UAE Ministry of Education, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the Anti-Narcotics Federal General Directorate at the UAE Ministry of Interior, and various police departments to investigate and report the seized cases, monitor and analyse captured substances, and provide preventive measures to protect children from these dangerous products.

Excessive use may cause nerve paralysis and decreased pressure

His Excellency noted that ethyl chloride spray is medically used to prevent pain caused by injections and minor surgical procedures, provide temporary relief from minor sports injuries, and help relieve deep muscle pain when used with muscle spasm techniques. Ethyl chloride is a topical anesthetic that belongs to a group of pharmaceutical compounds that block the neurotransmitters and paralyze the skeletal and respiratory muscles when inhaled. It also causes paralysis of the nerves that feed the blood vessels which relaxes smooth muscles in the vessel walls, leading to Vasodilation that can drop blood pressure and may lead to serious complications.

Pharmacies advised not sell ethyl chloride to youth under 18 years

H.E. Dr. Al Amiri said that the Ministry is warning against the inhalation of these substances and has issued a circular aiming detecting and stopping misleading practices among young people between the age of 12 and 16 years as it can lead to serious complications, including hospitalization. All pharmacies are advised to not sell these products to anyone under 18 years. In case of any side effects, please fill out the ADR side effects form available at http://www.cpd-pharma.ae, or contact the ministry on Tel: 02-3201448, Fax: 02-3201947, or e-mail pv@ moh.gov.ae.

Letter to the Ministry of Education and Education Councils in Abu Dhabi and Dubai

The Ministry of Health and Prevention has sent a written communication to the UAE Ministry of Education, ADEC and KHDA to raise the awareness among students and parents about the dangers of using these products. The letter also highlights the importance of organizing awareness programs as well as the role of psychologist. The three entities have been requested to monitor the behaviour of students in educational institutions and inform the Ministry of Health and Prevention in case of any widespread practice.

Letter to the Anti-Narcotics Federal General Directorate

In addition, the Ministry wrote to the Director General of the Anti-Narcotics Federal General Directorate, in the ministry of interior regarding the maintenance of communication channels with the Anti-Narcotics and all the police departments at the state level as well the security authorities to curb this alarming phenomenon. The letter emphasized the importance of monitoring such practice and working in coordination with the Ministry of Health and Prevention to study and discuss the lists of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances with the Higher Narcotic Drugs Committee.

US Environmental Protection Agency considers the product as carcinogenic

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), short-term side effects of inhalation of ethyl chloride include feeling drunk, lack of coordination, and loss of consciousness. Long-term exposure to high amounts of the chemical can lead to many neurological side effects such as slow reactions, reeling, speechlessness, tremors, involuntary movement of the eye, and hallucinations. Inhalation of the spray may drain oxygen out of the body leading to death while prolonged use can also damage to liver, kidney and the peripheral nerves causing the loss of sensation and inability to control the muscles. California has listed the product as containing a chemical known to cause cancer.