Nitrous Oxide: History notes

Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 2:21 pm

Samuel Colt is perhaps best known as the inventor of the Colt 45 revolver. But in the 1830s, at the tender age of 19, Colt was touring the United States and Canada as Doctor and/or Professor Coult, amazing onlookers with live demonstrations of laughing-gas inhalation. For $.25 ($.10 for children), audience members could watch Sam Colt administer the gas to volunteers, who would then entertain the crowd with their inebriated reactions. These money-making nitrous oxide demonstrations helped finance the prototype and production of Colt’s first five-shot revolver.
Today, according to NIDA estimates, a single large compressed gas cylinder containing 14,000-16,000 liters of nitrous oxide could net a drug entrepreneur enough for one of Colt’s originals. A 14,000 liter tank is enough to fill 4,700 balloons of nitrous, earning the seller between $14,100 and $23,500 (based on a street value of $3 to $5 for each balloon). However, a trafficking conviction can quickly erase any profit margin; in 2001 an Arizona man was fined $40,000 and sentenced to 15 months in prison for nitrous sales that resulted in the death of a Virginia college student.

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