Here is everything you need to know about nitrous oxide - the dangerous drug found on the Stray in Harrogate

Empty canisters of nitrous oxide - also known as laughing gas - have been found in abundance on the Stray in recent weeks.

Thursday, 2nd July 2020, 4:45 pm

Here is everything you need to know about the dangerous drug.

What is it and what does it do?

Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas which people inhale to get high. It makes many people get the giggles, which is one of the reasons it is known as laughing gas, but can also cause hallucinations. Most people report experiencing feelings of euphoria.The drug is becoming increasingly popular with teenagers because it is cheap and easily accessible.

Nitrous oxide comes in small, silver canisters and is usually inhaled through balloons.

How long does it last?

The effects of the drug are quite short lived, and although felt immediately, usually only last for a few minutes. However, some people have reported feeling the effects for up to 40 minutes.

How is it taken?

The gas comes in small, pressurised silver canisters. People open the canister, transfer the gas into a container - usually a balloon- then inhale it.

Inhaling nitrous oxide directly from the canister is very dangerous because the gas is under such high pressure. It can cause a spasm of the throat muscle and close the airways.

Is it known by any other names?

Yes - it is also known as balloons, nos, whippits, laughing gas, hippie crack or chargers.

Is it illegal?

This is a psychoactive drug and is covered by the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act, which means it’s illegal to give away or sell.

There’s no penalty for possession, unless you’re in prison.

Supply and production can get you up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

Like drink-driving, driving when high is dangerous and illegal. If you’re caught driving under the influence, you may receive a heavy fine, driving ban, or prison sentence.

However - as nitrous oxide has some other uses, for example being used in whipped cream dispensers, it is only illegal to sell it or give it away for human consumption.

Warnings and dangers

A number of warnings about the dangers of nitrous oxide have been published lately, with usage of the drug spiking during the coronavirus lockdown.

People have reported finding many of the empty canisters across the country, particularly in areas where teenagers have been congregating.

Side effects include dizziness and sometimes fainting. Continued use can also lead to a defiency in Vitamin B12, leading to a form of anaemia.

Last week, North Yorkshire Police issued a warning to young people and parents about the dangers of inhaling nitrous oxide.

It came after officers reported seeing an increase in the number of empty canisters they had found whilst on patrol, especially in areas where young people are known to meet and congregate. A number were found amongst litter and rubbish left on The Stray.

Children & Young People engagement officer, Sergeant Heidi Lewis said: “People may believe that because this gas is widely available and easily purchased, that it is harmless. However, inhaling this gas can lead to unconsciousness and ultimately suffocation, as the body is essentially starved of oxygen.

"There is also evidence to show people with heart conditions can be at higher risk of harm and that inhalation can lead to anaemia or long term nerve damage. So when you know the risks irresponsible use of this gas poses, it’s not so much of a laugh is it?

“I’m asking our young people to really think about their actions and the possible consequences it could have. Please ask yourself if the risk of inhaling this substance is really worth the few seconds of feeling high? Visit for more information on the risks of this gas.

“I’m also asking parents to be vigilant for the signs of nitrous oxide and speak to their young people about the risks associated with it. As mentioned, the gas is sold in small silver canisters and is usually inhaled through a balloon. So if you have seen paraphernalia in your home which matches these descriptions, please have a conversation and ensure your child is safe.

“To the local community, I would ask that if you see any suspicious activity where you think nitrous oxide is being consumed, please report it to police on 101 and our officers will visit the area.”

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