Nitrous oxide

Also known as

Laughing Gas, Nitrous, Nos, Balloons, Hippie Crack, Chargers, Whippets.


  • Nitrous oxide is a gas which is widely used for legitimate reasons, including medical, dental and veterinary purposes.
  • When used recreationally, nitrous oxide can produce effects such as feelings of euphoria, relaxation and calmness.
  • Many users have reported experiencing fits of giggles and laughter, which has led to people nicknaming it ‘Laughing Gas’.
  • Other effects reported include dizziness, difficulty in thinking straight, sound distortions and hallucinations.


  • Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas that is slightly sweet smelling and tasting.
  • It is normally bought in ‘Chargers/Whippets’, small pressured canisters, which can then be discharged into a balloon and inhaled.

Method of use

Nitrous oxide is typically inhaled from a balloon.


  • Nitrous oxide can affect your judgement and therefore may lead you to act carelessly or dangerously.
  • The risk of physical injury is increased when mixed with alcohol or other substances.
  • Using too much nitrous oxide may result in losing consciousness, an accident or even worse.
  • There is a risk of death, as using large amounts of nitrous oxide may starve the body of oxygen. The risk is likely to be greater if the gas is consumed in an enclosed space or if a substantial amount is rapidly used.
  • Heavy regular use can lead to a deficiency of vitamin B12 and a form of anaemia.
  • For some people, the severe B12 deficiency can lead to nerve damage. This can cause tingling and numbness in the fingers and toes, and even difficulties with walking and pain in affected areas.

Keeping safe

  • If you choose to use nitrous oxide, then use it in a safe environment and in the company of someone you trust. Ideally, this person will not have used the substance themselves and will be in a position to get help if things go wrong.
  • Nitrous oxide can be habit forming and tolerance can build up. Don’t use it too frequently and take regular breaks.
  • The use of nitrous oxide with alcohol or other substances should be avoided.
  • After inhaling nitrous oxide ensure you breathe normal air for several minutes.
  • Use balloons rather than plastic bags and sit down before inhaling.
  • Heavy use can reduce levels of vitamin B12, therefore heavy users are advised to use supplements in order to reduce risks.

Legal status

  • Although nitrous oxide has been legal in the past, since the Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect on 26th May 2016, it is now illegal to supply or import nitrous oxide for human consumption.
  • Possession of a psychoactive substance, such as nitrous oxide, will not be an offence, except in prisons.