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Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide is a chemical commonly known as laughing gas or NOS. It was frequently used as a pain killer by dentists but can now most commonly be found in some food products (to keep them fresh) and is also sold in steel canisters or balloons. Nitrous oxide is usually inhaled.

Because nitrous oxide is a pressurised gas in the canister, there is a risk of harm if you inhale nitrous oxide straight from the canister. This method can lead to sudden death due to a lack of oxygen and is one reason why nitrous oxide is sold to people in balloons.

Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas. Some people say that it has a slightly sweet smell and taste.

It is a dissociative drug which means it slows down your brain and your body’s responses. The effects of nitrous oxide vary depending on how much has been inhaled but they include: feelings of euphoria, relaxation and calmness as well as dizziness, difficulty in thinking straight, altered hearing and fits of giggles/laughter.

In higher doses it can also cause numb face/hands/feet and headaches as well as nausea and vomiting.

One cartridge or balloon is thought to be enough for two or three doses of nitrous. One cartridge/balloon usually contains 8g of nitrous oxide. This dose should not be taken as a recommendation.

Once inhaled the effects will normally on within 15-30 seconds and the effects from a single breath of nitrous oxide will last between one and five minutes. Most people recommend 10-15 minutes between each dose allowing you to breathe normal air and restore oxygen levels.

What you Need to Know

If you choose to take nitrous oxide:

Legal Information

Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is exempt from The Psychoactive Substances Act when used in food preparation (usually as a propellant for whipped cream). It is illegal to sell if it is thought it is going to be inhaled for a psychoactive effect. The onus is on the supplier to ensure the product is not sold for this purpose.

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