Mesut Ozil and a group of Arsenal stars are at the centre of the latest hippy crack controversy to hit English football.
A video released by The Sun on Thursday night shows Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Matteo Guendouzi using balloons apparently to inhale nitrous oxide — a legal high that can cause potentially dangerous side-effects — at a party in London a few days before the start of the season in August.
On what seems to be CCTV footage Ozil appears to fall semi-conscious after inhaling from a balloon, while Guendouzi appears to lose consciousness altogether during what is claimed to be a private party at the exclusive Tape Club in London’s West End.
Ozil appears to offer a balloon to midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 29, who declines to take it.
German defender Shkodran Mustafi was also seen in the footage but was not filmed having any nitrous oxide, while defender Sead Kolasinac, 25, is another among those on camera.
Arsenal lost the first two games of the Premier League campaign to ‘Big Six’ rivals Manchester City and Chelsea.
Other Premier League players have found themselves the subject of such allegations in the past, with Raheem Sterling, Saido Berahino and Jack Grealish among them.
And while the risks from using what is also known as laughing gas from small canisters is generally considered to be low, football clubs are usually unhappy when their players are associated with images such as those published in The Sun on Thursday.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has said the drug ‘has the potential to cause harm to users, including death’, with nitrous oxide responsible for 17 fatalities between 2006 and 2012.
Arsenal were unavailable for comment on Thursday night but they have made a point in the past of reminding players of their responsibilities as professionals representing their club.
What is Nitrous Oxide and is it illegal?
Nitrous Oxide, has been nicknamed ‘laughing gas’ due to the euphoric and relaxed feeling people who inhale it can sometimes feel.
The substance – also known as ‘hippy crack’ – is normally bought in pressured canisters, commonly transferred to a container, e.g. a balloon, from which the gas is inhaled.
Although possession of laughing gas is not illegal, English law prohibits its sale to under-18s if there is a chance they will inhale it.
The effects of nitrous oxide vary depending on how much has been inhaled but they include:
• Feelings of euphoria, relaxation and calmness.
• Dizziness, difficulty in thinking straight and fits of giggles/laughter.
• Sound distortions or even hallucinations.
• In some people, a headache can be an unwanted immediate effect.
• Unconsciousness or death from lack of oxygen. This occurs when the available oxygen for breathing is effectively pushed out by the nitrous oxide.