Parents warned to watch for the signs of nitrous oxide use


Discarded cannisters and balloons found as youngsters use gas for quick high

A growing number of discarded small nitrous oxide cannisters have been appearing around our area.   Now parents are being asked to watch for the signs that their children could be using them for an illegal high.

The cannisters, which vary in size from 2 – 4 inches, are widely used in the catering industry for processes such as whipping up cream.   In recent years there has been an increasing use by young people for inhaling either directly or through balloons.   Often balloons and used cannisters will be found discarded together.

Tim Davies, Community Warden with the Community Safety Team at Cherwell District Council said: “We’re finding more and more people are buying them by the box load on the internet.   At some points you can buy them at 500 in a box.   They are relatively cheap compared to any other drug.

“From a certain generation we will know them from going to the doctor or dentist and they gave you what we would call laughing gas.   They are used in medical situations for pain relief or sedation.”

When inhaled quickly nitrous oxide gives a very fast high which for most people leaves a euphoric feeling and giddiness.   Blurred vision, uncoordinated movements and numbness of hands and feet are other effects felt by users.   This can last for up to 5 minutes.

Tim Davies gave an example of spotting someone who had taken nitrous oxide: “We sometimes find young people walking down the street laughing for no apparent reason.

“There is no level of safe use.   Any of these drugs, regardless of what they are, carry a risk.

“All the young people we speak to are just hearing the positive sides as they see.   We’re the big bad wolf; we come in and tell them the down-side too.”

Parents are being asked to listen out for the names used by young people such as “balloons”, “nos”, “whippits”, “laughing gas”, “hippie crack”, “chargers” and “noz”.

Tim said: “We’ve spoken to various off-licences, convenience shops, corner stores, pubs and clubs that may be selling them illegally.  There have been one or two shops that we’ve taken enforcement action against because of that.

“If you do know anyone selling these you must tell the police.”

As of 2016, nitrous oxide is covered by the Psychoactive Substances Act and is illegal to supply for its psychoactive effect.   Doing so can lead to a prison sentence of up to 7 years, an unlimited fine, or both.

The use of nitrous oxide can be habit-forming, mainly because of its short-lived effect and ease of access. Death can result if it is inhaled in such a way that not enough oxygen is breathed in.  Prolonged exposure may result in memory loss and vitamin B12 depletion which can lead to brain and nerve damage.

Anyone with concerns can get confidential help at or by calling 0300 123 6600.

You can listen to our interview with Tim Davies here:

Published: by Banbury FM Newsteam

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