Severe length-dependent peripheral polyneuropathy in a patient with subacute combined spinal cord degeneration secondary to recreational nitrous oxide abuse: A case report and literature review

Clin Case Rep. 2023 Feb 13;11(2):e6881. doi: 10.1002/ccr3.6881. eCollection 2023 Feb.


Nitrous oxide abuse can have detrimental effects on the central and peripheral nervous systems. This case study report aims to demonstrate a combination of severe generalized sensorimotor polyneuropathy and cervical myelopathy related to vitamin B12 deficiency following nitrous oxide abuse. We present a clinical case study and literature review examining primary research-published between 2012 and 2022-reporting nitrous oxide abuse affecting the spinal cord (myelopathy) and peripheral nerves (polyneuropathy); 35 articles were included in the review with a total of 96 patients, where the mean "patients" age was 23.9 years and were in a 2:1 male/female ratio. Of the 96 cases, within the review, 56% of patients were diagnosed with polyneuropathy, most commonly impacting the nerves of the lower limb (62%), while 70% of patients were diagnosed with myelopathy, most commonly impacting the cervical region (78%) on the spinal cord. In our clinical case study, a 28-year-old male underwent a multitude of diagnostic investigations for bilateral "foot drop" and sense of lower limb stiffness as ongoing complications of a vitamin B12 deficiency secondary to recreational nitrous oxide abuse. Both the literature review and our case report emphasize the dangers of recreational nitrous oxide inhalation, colloquially termed "nanging" and the risks it presents to both the central and peripheral nervous systems, which is erroneously considered by many recreational drug users to be less harmful than other illicit substances.

Keywords: myelopathy; nanging; nitrous oxide; polyneuropathy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports