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Friend of Tortoise Exclusive

Ballooning panic: the truth about nitrous oxide

Ballooning panic: the truth about nitrous oxide

This event is exclusive to Friends of Tortoise

This is a digital-only ThinkIn.

Nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas or nos, is an anaesthetic traditionally used for treating pain and anxiety. It’s also used as a propellant and an ingredient in whipped cream. But in addition to its medical and culinary uses, nitrous has also become the drug of choice among 16-24 year olds in the UK, with more than half a million young people reporting taking the drug in 2019-2020. 

When inhaled, its fast-acting but short-lived effects include hallucinations and feelings of euphoria, relaxation and calmness. Manufactured and sold by companies in the Netherlands, where recreational use of nitrous is legal (with no age restrictions), use of nitrous has exploded in popularity: 3.5 tonnes of it were confiscated at this year’s Notting Hill Carnival. 

Over a 10 year period in the UK, only 56 deaths have been recorded due to nitrous inhalation. So is the concern over its growing use just another tabloid panic? How is the use of nitrous changing, and what do we know about its long term impacts?  

Join us for a digital ThinkIn where we’ll explore the rising use of nitrous, its appeal, consequences of its use, and the loopholes in the law that allow people to buy and use a controlled substance, without any controls.


Luke Gbedemah