Possessing laughing gas could become illegal in UK under government crackdown

The Home Office has asked he Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to consider whether an overhaul is needed

A crackdown on the drug labelled “hippy crack” could be imminent

Laughing gas could be made illegal after ministers asked experts to examine the harms it causes.

Home Secretary Priti Patel called on the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to carry out a review of nitrous oxide after more than half a million young people admitted taking the drug in 2019-20.

Prolonged use has been known to cause vitamin B12 deficiency and anaemia.

The Home Office is also concerned about the mounting problem of the small metal canisters containing the gas littering streets.

Sales of nitrous oxide for its psychoactive effects were made illegal in the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act.

The canisters contain nitrous oxide, commonly known as “laughing gas”


Universal Images Group Editorial)

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But it is not currently a crime to possess the drug.

Ms Patel said: “Misusing drugs can have a devastating impact on lives and communities.

“We are determined to do all we can to address this issue and protect the futures of our children and young people.

“Should the expert Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs recommend further restrictions on this drug, we stand ready to take tough action.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel



Laughing gas is the second most used drug by 16 to 24 year olds in the UK, with 8.7% saying they had taken it in the previous 12 months – equivalent to 549,000 youngsters.

The ACMD’s assessment could include more education for young people on its harms or tougher punishment for those who supply the drug to children.

The body last issued advice on nitrous oxide in 2015 when it concluded it should not be banned.

Properly used, nitrous oxide is an effective form of pain relief and commonly used as a sedative for patients undergoing minor medical procedures, including dental treatments.

It is also used by the catering industry, with restaurants bulk-buying “whippits” – the small metal canisters – to inject the froth into frothy cream.

It is also known as “hippy crack”.

The gas canisters have become a familiar sight in some areas



According to the Talk to Frank website, which provides information about recreational drugs, nitrous oxide “slows down your brain and your body’s responses”, with effects varying depending on how much has been inhaled.

It adds: “Taking nitrous oxide can cause feelings of euphoria, relaxation and calmness, fits of giggles and laughter – hence the nickname ‘laughing gas’, and sound distortions and hallucinations – when you see or hear things that aren’t there.”

Other side-effects include severe headaches, dizziness and “short-lived but intense feelings of paranoia”, it says.

The website goes on: “It is very dangerous to inhale nitrous oxide directly from the canister, and doing it in an enclosed space is also very dangerous.”

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