Recent media reports have highlighted the recreational use of the mild hallucinogenic, Nitrous Oxide, here in Wales. Following mass gatherings at Cardiff Bay over the last few weeks, many ‘used’ Nitrous Oxide canisters were left behind, long after the crowds had dispersed. Wales Online and ITV Wales also reported 700 gas canisters were found in a local park, in Cardiff, during a recent litter pick.


So what is Nitrous Oxide?

Well firstly, it is often referred to as ‘Laughing Gas’, ‘Hippy Crack’ or even ‘NOS’. It is a mild hallucinogenic gas, which when consumed can lead to a sense of euphoria, mild visual hallucinations and sound distortions. While the risks associated to the use of Nitrous Oxide are relatively low, especially when compared to other substances, it is worth noting that there are risks. Such risks are often linked to long-term use, including vitamin D deficiency which could result in mood swings and depression-like symptoms as well as vitamin B12 deficiency which is linked to irreversible damage to the brain and nervous system.

The recreational use of Nitrous Oxide is legally covered by the Psychoactive Substance Act 2016. While there is no offence for the possession of Nitrous Oxide, except in custodial institutions, it is an offence to possess with intent to supply, or to supply Nitrous Oxide, if it is likely to be used for its psychoactive effects. The latter could result in a fine or even a custodial sentence of up to 7 years. So be aware, if you give your friends canisters to ultimately inhale, in the eyes of the law, this would be classed as supply.

As with the use of any drug, there are harm reduction tips users can put in place, to minimise any risks, if you intend to use the substance:

  • Never directly inhale from the canister or cylinder – this could lead to serious damage in the throat and lungs. Therefore, always inhale from a balloon
  • Never use Nitrous Oxide with a bag over your head
  • Never been alone when using Nitrous Oxide – if something goes wrong, they will want someone around to help out
  • Use in a safe location and preferably, sit down when using Nitrous Oxide – it can affect your balance and coordination, making you more susceptible to falling over
  • Avoid mixing Nitrous Oxide with other drugs such as alcohol and stimulants – it could lead to unpredictable effects on blood pressure and heart rate
  • And dispose of your used Nitrous Oxide canisters responsibly – please do not leave them on the streets for others to pick up after you. Keep Wales tidy!


For more information on Nitrous Oxide, please feel free to use our Live Webchat service (bottom right hand corner) on our website and talk to one of our trained support workers. Additionally, you can gain access to a wide variety of harm reduction tips and information regarding substance use via our ‘We Are Here’ Young Persons summer 2020 campaign. Alternatively, you can visit the national drug and alcohol helpline, DAN 24/7.