Laughing gas, Balloons, Hippy crack, Nos, Whippets, N2O
What does Nitrous Oxide look like?
A colourless, slightly sweet gas, usually contained in small gas canisters.
Nitrous oxide, N2O
Effects Of Nitrous Oxide
Relaxation, happiness, euphoria, giggling/laughing
Can cause hallucinations, sound distortion, headaches, nausea, poor coordination, blurred vision, light-headedness and dizziness.
May cause breathing problems if inhaled directly from the canister, because when under high pressure the gas is very cold and can cause throat spasm and lung damage, or if used in an enclosed space or if too much is used in one go, because of a lack of oxygen being able to reach the brain. This may cause suffocation, heart problems and unconsciousness which may be fatal. Effects on the brain such as lack of coordination, dizziness or fainting, may lead to accidental injury for example from a fall or acting in a harmful way, especially if taken with other substances such as Alcohol. Freeze burn may occur if the gas canister is not opened properly.
Regular or heavy use can cause vitamin B12 deficiency which may lead to nerve damage. This especially affects the hands and feet, causing numbness, tingling and pain which may be irreversible. It may also cause anaemia.
How does Nitrous Oxide work?
A short acting Depressant that slows down the brain and body. The effects depend on how much has been taken.
Legal status of Nitrous Oxide
Psychoactive Substance (covered by the Psychoactive Substance Act 2016) so it is illegal to produce, import or supply to someone else for its psychoactive effect.
How Is Nitrous Oxide Taken?
Inhaled, usually by mouth from a balloon.
The gas is usually contained in pressurised gas canisters and released via device such as a whipped cream dispenser or ‘cracker’, into another object (usually a balloon) to inhale.
Releasing device such as a whipped cream dispenser or ‘cracker’ to release the gas from the canister
Object to store the gas ready for inhaling, such as a balloon.
Medical uses of Nitrous Oxide
Used in medical procedures including dentistry and during childbirth to help with pain.
Where does it come from?
Manufactured gas, contained under high pressure in canisters. Often purchased online from countries like China or from culinary suppliers because the gas is often used in cooking (such as whipping cream). It may also be taken from medical supplies.
Dependency is not common, but drug treatment services should be able to offer support if needed.
Do not inhale the gas directly from a canister or from bags placed over the head as this can cause suffocation. Avoid mixing with other substances such as alcohol and try to avoid using large amounts or regularly. If you decide to use nitrous oxide, make sure you’re in a safe environment and with people that you trust will be able to help if something goes wrong.
Do not drive whilst under the influence as it can affect your coordination and ability to think clearly.
If someone is unconsciousness put them in the recovery position and get immediate medical assistance.
You can view a list of National Drug Agencies.
If you would like to talk about Nitrous Oxide problems then please call the DAN 24/7 Helpline on: