Nitrous Oxide usage in Warwick district

Since April 2020, the subject of Nitrous Oxide has been mentioned in various press articles and on social media platforms. In Warwickshire there have been reports of canisters being found in public places, usually associated with locations where young people congregate. 

What is Nitrous Oxide?

Nitrous Oxide is a gas used medically as an anaesthetic. It's also used in catering as the propellant in whipped cream chargers. Some people use it as a recreational drug, usually inhaled from a balloon to get high.

Where do people find it?

Small metal canisters of Nitrous OxideWhen sold for recreational purposes, nitrous oxide or 'laughing gas' tends to come in small metal canisters known as 'whippits'. The gas is decanted into a balloon and then inhaled.

It is not illegal to sell canisters of Nitrous Oxide. It becomes an offence when the seller has to know or suspect, or ought to know or suspect, that the substance is a psychoactive substance and knows, or is reckless as to whether, the psychoactive substance is likely to be consumed by the person to whom it is supplied, or by some other person, for its psychoactive effects.

These products can be legally sold for the purpose they were designed for, but obviously not for their psychoactive properties.

What are the effects?

Nitrous Oxide acts as a depressant in that it slows down the body's system and leads to feelings of relaxation or happiness - hence the name 'laughing gas'.

What are the risks?

If inhaled, Nitrous Oxide is a psychoactive drug.

It is very dangerous to inhale nitrous oxide directly from the cannister and doing it in an enclosed space is also very dangerous. 

  • Too much nitrous oxide can increase risks of falling unconscious and/or suffocating from the lack of oxygen. People have died this way. 
  • Dizziness, which may cause careless or dangerous behaviour. 
  • Heavy regular use of nitrous oxide can lead to a deficiency of vitamin B12 and to a form of anaemia. Severe B12 deficiency can lead to serious nerve damage, causing tingling and numbness in the fingers and toes. This can be very painful and make walking difficult. 
  • Regular use can stop the normal formation of white blood cells
  • It can be hard to judge the amount of nitrous oxide that can be used safely. 

What are we doing about it?

The Community Safety Partners including the Police, District and Borough Councils, Warwickshire County Council Community Safety Team, Trading Standards and Public Health Drugs and Alcohol Commissioning services have been working on an action plan to provide education to the public on the use of Nitrous Oxide.

To help us inform this action plan, we need to know the areas in Warwick district where usage of Nitrous Oxide is prevalent. If you have recently come across Nitrous Oxide cannisters, either discarded or being used as a psychoactive substance, please let us know using our anonymous form so we can work together with our partners to increase public awareness of the dangers of inhaling this gas.

Complete the form

Further information