Nitrous oxide is covered legally by the Psychoactive Substance Act 2016, meaning it is an offence to supply for human use

Nitrous oxide 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. Risks associated to nitrous oxide are often linked to long-term use. This includes 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. Below are some simple steps to keeping as safe a possible when using nitrous oxide.

  1. Research. Spend around two hours getting to know the facts, what to expect and potential side effects when using nitrous oxide. Knowing as much about the substance as possible allows you to make a more informed decision about whether to use it or not.
  2. Don’t use alone. The risks associated to nitrous oxide may be relative low when compared to other drugs, but there are still risks. Therefore it is really important that if you do use the substance, you do so with other people around and preferably with a ‘sober’ friend. Drugs can affect different people in different ways and just because it didn’t affect your mate in a negative way, doesn’t mean it won’t for you. In case you need support or medical assistance, you will want someone around to help you out.
  3. Be in a safe space. Nitrous oxide can affect your balance and coordination so preferably, sit down if you use. Be aware of your environment and avoid using near sharp objects, water or heat. It can also lead you to feeling disorientated, so it’s worth being in an environment you recognise and are familiar with.
  4. Use a balloon. Never consume nitrous oxide straight from a canister or cylinder, as this could seriously damage your throat and lungs due to the cold temperature of the gas. There are pieces of equipment such as crackers or cream chargers, you can use to release the gas from the canister to a balloon, and then inhale from the balloon. However, one risk is not taking in enough oxygen, so ensure you take breaks and normal breaths between each inhalation from the balloon.
  5. Do not put a bag over your head. Never put a bag over your head when you use nitrous oxide. This is extremely dangerous. Also, if you use nitrous oxide, use in well ventilated areas.
  6. Do not mix with other drugs. Avoid using other drugs at the same time when consuming nitrous oxide. It can lead to uncertain and unpleasant effects and can lead to unpredictable effects on your blood pressure and heart rate.
  7. Loss of feeling? Nitrous oxide is an anaesthetic therefore you may experience effects such as loss of feeling a reduced perception of pain. It could also lead you to feeling sick too.
  8. Look after your mates. If you notice your mate is unable to move, fallen asleep or is unconscious, put them in the recovery position and regularly check on them. If needed, seek medical assistance.
  9. Do not share. Avoid passing and sharing the balloon. Only use your own balloon and equipment, such as the cracker. Sharing anything increases the risk of transmitting infections.
  10. Keep Wales tidy. If you use nitrous oxide, please be responsible and take your rubbish, including the canisters and balloons with you. Please pick up your own litter and dispose responsibly.
  11. Reach out if you are worried. If you are worried about your own, or a loved one’s nitrous oxide use, get in touch with your local service. Here at Barod, we provide free, confidential support to anyone affected by substance use. You can chat to a trained support worker via our Live Webchat Service too.