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Wagner SA, Clark MA, Wesche DL, Doedens DJ, Lloyd AW. 
“Asphyxial deaths from the recreational use of nitrous oxide”. 
J Forensic Sci. 1992 Sep 21;37(4):1008-15.
The recreational use of nitrous oxide is widespread. Nitrous oxide for recreational use is usually obtained from anesthesia tanks or whipped-cream machine chargers or cans. Twenty previously described deaths associated with recreational nitrous-oxide use describe anesthesia tanks and whipped-cream machine dispensors as a source. Five deaths associated with nitrous oxide use are presented; two involving whipped-cream cannisters as the source, two involving anesthesia tanks, and one involving a racing fuel tank as a source of nitrous oxide. Autopsy findings in our cases were subtle or negative, but usually suggestive of asphyxia. Through a laboratory simulation, we have confirmed that nitrous oxide displaces oxygen in a closed space, which probably leads to asphyxia. A review of the literature, neuropharmacology, and pathophysiology of nitrous oxide use is also presented.
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