SILVER cannisters left strewn on the floor are becoming a common sight across the UK.
Despite seeing them, you may not know what nitrous oxide (commonly known as 'hippie crack) actually is, so here we give you the run-down.
What is nitrous oxide?
Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas that when inhaled can make people feel euphoric and relaxed.
The effects of the gas have seen it nicknamed “laughing gas", but it can also cause some people to have hallucinations.
The effects are caused by the drug slowing down the brain.
Nitrous oxide is normally bought in pressurised canisters and typically transferred to a container such as a balloon to be inhaled.
Is nitrous oxide illegal?
Laughing gas is set to be made illegal under a drugs crackdown.
Nitrous oxide is being reviewed to see if it is so toxic that possession should be criminal.
Supplying the drug can land offenders seven years in jail but it is not illegal to have it.
The Government is concerned it is a significant factor in its increasing use.
The Independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs may also suggest more education for young people as well as tougher punishment after reviewing its risk.
Home Secretary Priti 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 ACMD recommend further restrictions, we stand ready to take tough action.”
The ACMD last reviewed nitrous oxide six years ago, concluding it did not seem to warrant control under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
While reviews are ongoing the drug still falls under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, which means that possession for personal use is not an offence but the following are:
- Production (including for personal use);
- Supply or offering to supply;
- Aggravated supply or offering to supply (near schools, prisons etc. or using someone under 18 as a courier);
- Possession with intent to supply;
- Possession in prisons (and other custodial institutions).
How dangerous is nitrous oxide and what are the side effects?
Nitrous oxide can cause dizziness and affect your judgement, creating a risk of accidents.
In large quantities it can also cause the user to faint or pass out.
If nitrous oxide is inhaled through the mouth from a pressurised gas canister or in a confined space it can cause sudden death through lack of oxygen.
Heavy, regular use of the drug can cause a deficiency of vitamin B12 and a form of anaemia.
Severe vitamin B deficiency can cause serious nerve damage.
One woman was left paralysed from the chest down after inhaling 15 balloons of 'hippy crack' every weekend. For more information, see drugs advice site, Frank.
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Why is nitrous oxide called 'hippy crack'?
Nitrous oxide is often referred to as 'hippy crack'.
There is some debate about how the term came into use, some argue that hippy refers to the laid back stereotypical user while crack is a reference to the drug's quick onset.
The drug may also be called whippits, laughing gas or chargers.
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