In an Associate Press story from March 22, 2013, Tami Abdollah reports that "Los Angeles County sheriff's officials have zeroed in on the recreational use of nitrous oxide […], cracking down on more than 350 illegal parties […]."
This is an important story for several reasons, including one that few interviewed experts will stress.
To quote the Wikipedia entry,
"The use of nitrous oxide as a recreational drug at 'laughing gas
parties,' primarily arranged for the British upper class, became an
immediate success beginning in 1799." I.e., a little over a quarter
century after it was first synthesized,
nitrous oxide was at the cutting edge of using scientific chemistry to
produce new drugs to supplement such ancient drugs as ethyl alcohol.
So in some places, "laughing gas" is back is fashion, and that is my
point: like much else, fashion applies to drugs, and fashions often
cycle. There is the possibility that the LA County Sheriff and other
forces of law and order can have only marginally more effect on
recreational drug use — unless the drugs are as blatantly dangerous as
tobacco — than they can over clothing styles, tatooing, piercing, skin
tanning, or fashions in sex.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh from about 2000 BCE, it's a given that getting
drunk is something civilized humans do, and getting zonked one way or
another is at least as old as human civilization and possibly "as old as cooking."
Humans will continue to get high one way or another, with fashions in
intoxication probably more important than the laws of the land.
The practical and humane thing to do with recreational drugs is
hard-headed harm reduction, starting with cold calculation of the most
cost-effective ways to let people do what they're going to do anyway —
seeking pleasure where they can — with minimal harm.