How does "laughing gas" operate neurochemically to make you laugh?

I once knew a very expensive hooker who had a tank of nitrous oxide as part of her professional accoutrements.

Without details, suffice it to say that I have “experimented” with Nitrous a time or two.

The result was always to throw a non stop giggly of serious duration.


Does it act to enhance the appreciation of whatever it is that initially triggers laughter in normal situations (whatever the fuck that is…)

Or does it lower the threshold for the anatomical responses, and then trigger feedback loops that self reinforce?

WTF is happening here?

It’s a euphoric intoxicant that acts to lower your inhibitions. Incidentally,are you still accquainted with this person? I’m conducting a study.

Really? I’ve never observed that reaction in anyone – more of a quiet “Whoah…”

Of course there must be reason it was commonly called “laughing gas,” but I can hardly see that it would be valuable in dentistry if the hysteria were uniform, like the disassociative effect is.

I remember a sort of “huh huh huh” thing, more a breathing reaction than a laugh, that was funny enough to make one actually giggle.
By the way, men don’t giggle. Men chuckle.

I really didn’t describe the sensation well. It felt like a series of spasms of the diaphram, and caused the exhale to emerge as puffs.
Nitrous is bad for you. And illegal to use as described.

No idea. But these guys might know.

Long duration? Are you sure it was NO2? Nitrous oxide’s effects (unless you’re taking it in constantly, which can get pretty dangerous) last for, what, a minute or two? Very short effects, IME.

my recollection was that I was laughing uncontrollably (tears running, that kind of thing) for a good quarter hour or more.

Of course, fueled by sexual tension and potentiated by a pharmacologically contraindicated combination of additional organic compounds available back in the day, it’s hard to deconstruct the nitrous contribution, but I did say she had a whole tank, didn’t I?

no doubt…

Perhaps you are unacquainted with the expression:

“to throw a giggly”

It is precisely the tension between the description and the experience which provides the context for the full appreciation of helpless laughter intermittently suppressed only to erupt in worse fashion for the effort.

Think cracking up at a funeral, and you will approach the furious energy of this laughter.

We ain’t talkin’ chuckle, ya feel me?

I can authoritatively assert that on the invocation of the nitrous muse, EVERYTHING was funny.

Every idea. Every remark. Every response.
Really, really funny.

That may be true for your own subjective experience, but I promise you it’s not this way for everyone. (I suspect that age and general temperament play a large role in whether or not you’re going to experience overwhelming mirth.)

My strongest personal association with nitrous use is with a screening of Tarkovsky’s Mirror during which me and half-a-dozen of my friends were frequently hitting the tank. The film was undisturbed by laughter from anyone. The hit I remember clearest coincided with a scene in which a woman was washing her hair in a pool of water that had gathered in a room in which entropy had run wild. Apart from the usual delay-pedal-between-the-ears-and-brain-effect, I had a very strong impression of the film itself bleeding into everything. As the water dripped from her hair, the room that we were in seemed wet, and the distant sound of a freight train in the distance seemed summoned by the soundtrack of the film in a peculiar way.

As to your original question, it seems unlikely that you’re going to get an answer that’s really satisfactory. If the question is “Why does NO2 make you laugh at just about anything?” then the answer is that it doesn’t always, and doesn’t even usually. If you’re after the answer to the question, “How does NO2 do whatever the hell that it does, anyway?” you’re either going to have to be satisfied with a pretty vague answer like “It alters your brain chemistry briefly so that your neurons fire in unusual ways,” or you’re going to have to read up on neurology so that specific information about the receptors in the brain that it effects, how they are effected, what their usual role is, etc.

I suspect that folks who know more about what is physically happening in the brain than anyone else aren’t going to be able to explain why the subjective experience of a the biochemistry of it is what it is, anyway.

One of the things that really should be mentioned about nitrous use is that chronic use can lead to debilitating (though transient) neuropathy. Like not being able to walk for a couple of weeks.

Nitrous oxide is N[sub]2[/sub]O, not NO[sub]2[/sub]. It’s unlikely you’ll ever get your hands on a tank of NO[sub]2[/sub], but breathe it and it’ll damage or kill you. I’m not sure what delayed pulmonary edema is, but it doesn’t sound good.

A lot of gases produce narcosis when breathed at sufficient pressure. Nitrogen is the famous one, leading to narcosis for divers making deep dives with compressed air. To prevent narcosis and the bends, helium is substituted for some of the nitrogen for deep dives.

What is interesting is that nitrogen is chemically inert - it doesn’t react with anything inside you at all. The noble gases, xenon and krypton are narcotic at atmospheric pressure, and argon is narcotic at elevated pressure. All of these gases are chemically inert.

The mechanism for narcosis is still something of a mystery. One theory is that the narcotic gases dissolve into the fatty sheaths of the nerves and physically affect the synapses. For the noble gases, there is a strong correlation between their narcotic potency and their solubility in fats so there may be something to that theory. I vaguely recall that it doesn’t hold up so well when you consider substances like nitrous oxide, ether or chloroform.

Along with the incomplete sentence in my last post, and the misspelling of “dissociative” in the first one, I’m feeling rather an ass. :o

A very good question. A good place to go for information, warnings, directions and stories about experiences is here…

Happy “researching” hehehe

I always thought that laughing while high on nitrous was more of a psychosomatic response to its name. I have never found it to be hysterical except the first time I did it and I think that I started laughing due to the ‘impact’ of it and the associated euphoria. I think that if you start laughing it definitely helps and you can get stuck in an uncontrollable fit of hysterics but I don’t think its an inherent quality the same as smoking dope or doing acid doesn’t make you laugh - it just helps.

I’ve taken some hit off nitrous in my life (always cannisters, never tanks) and I’m curious…

I know that the stuff is generally bad for you, and that it’s addicting, but is it as bad as, say, huffing spray paint? If I started hitting WhipIts again (I’ve been “clean” for a couple of years), would I be killing brain cells as fast as these local teenage burnouts who steal spray paint so they can get high? Or is nitrous a sort-of “Narcotic Lite”?

As far as I know it is fairly safe substance and is nowhere near as dangerous as huffing paint or aerosols and I’m not sure I’d describe it as addictive, it could only be considered addictive in the ‘it feels nice so I might do it again’ sense rather than the ‘withdrawal symptom’ sense

No. Huffing solvents and glue and whatnot is extremely dangerous and quite toxic; nitrous oxide has accepted medical uses (fast-acting anasthetic), and its effects are fairly well understood. Not that I’d advocate constant nitrous use, but its method of action is completely different than huffing chemicals.

of course–i forgot about erowid, altho I didnt instantly see nitrous as in their bailiwick (pace, iwilliam james)

(BTW, speakin of erowid, they say Hoffman is still a-fuckin-live!!!)