Nitrous Oxide

  • laughing gas
  • nitro
  • N2O
  • NOS
  • nangs
  • whippet
  • hippy crack
  • buzz bomb
  • balloons
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What is nitrous oxide?

Commonly known as 'laughing gas' nitrous oxide is a colourless non-flammable gas that is used in food catering and for sedation and pain relief in clinical settings.

It is also sometimes referred to as an inhalant or a volatile substance.

Inhalants are central nervous system (CNS) depressants. This means they slow down the workings of the brain, particularly breathing and heart.

Download the nitrous oxide fact sheet.

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Nitrous Oxide
Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous Oxide


The gas is typically inhaled through balloons filled from canisters of the gas. Serious damage can be done to the lungs if the gas is inhaled directly from capsules or  large volume cylinders.

When inhaled, the fumes enter the bloodstream very quickly and the effects are felt after just a few seconds.

Regular and excessive use of nitrous oxide from capsules or cylinders can have serious and harmful effects on the body such as being unable to use vitamin B12 which may cause brain and spinal cord damage. (see tab below for more effects)

Immediate effects can include

  • euphoria
  • sedation
  • blurred vision
  • dizziness and/or light-headedness

Effects depend on...

​What nitrous oxide does to you depends on how much you use, your experience with taking nitrous oxide, your height and weight, your general health (risks increase in people with a B12 deficiency), whether you use it on its own or with other drugs.

  • giggling and laughing
  • sound distortions
  • sweating

How nitrous oxide affects your body

Tap on a body part to learn more of the effects nitrous oxide places on your body

Long term effects can include

  • memory impairment
  • Vitamin B12 inactivation (the body is unable to use B12 which may causes brain and spinal cord damage. Taking a B12 supplement will not prevent this.)
  • numbness in the hands or feet
  • weakened immune system
  • anaemia
  • incontinence
  • limb spasms

General information

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