Nitrous oxide – also known as laughing gas or nos – will be banned as part of the government’s crackdown on anti-social behaviour.
But how are those silver cans littering the sidewalk used, why are people handling it, and what health risks does it pose?
Here’s what you need to know about nitrous oxide.
What is nitrous oxide and how is it used?
Also known as laughing gas or nos, nitrous oxide is an inhaled gas that gives the user a brief, sharp high.
Party drugs are second only to cannabis as the most commonly abused substance among 16- to 24-year-olds in England.
People usually transfer the gas into a balloon, but may inhale directly from the tank.
Nitrous oxide slows down the responses of the brain and body.
It can produce euphoria and cause giggles—hence the name laughing gas—but it can also cause severe headaches, dizziness, and paranoia.
What health problems can it cause?
Long-term use can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency, anemia, and nerve damage.
Doctors have also warned that the use of laughing gas could cause spinal injuries.
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Dr David Nicholl, clinical lead in neurology at the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, told Sky News in December that substance abuse was the most common reason for emergency admissions to neurological wards.
People came to the hospital with difficulty walking, tingling in their hands and feet, slurred speech and sometimes seizures, he said.
What legitimate uses does it have?
Small silver nitrous oxide canisters are often sold in boxes labeled “Cream Charger” – suggesting a more innocuous use for them.
Nitrous oxide is used in whipping cream dosers, especially in professional kitchens, as a propellant for whipping cream.
It can be used to get more oxygen into a car engine – helping it run faster.
It is also used as an anesthetic in medical and dental settings when combined with oxygen.
How do people master it?
this undercover investigation Also found it easy to buy nitrous oxide from the corner store.
The store didn’t ask those buying the jars how old they were or what they planned to do with them.
Every store adds a pack of party balloons, usually for inhaling gas.
Why is it banned?
The ban is part of a crackdown on anti-social behaviour.
Announces ban on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, promotes secretary michael gove “It is absolutely critical that we tackle this scourge”.
He said: “I think anyone who has had the chance to walk through our big city parks will see these little silver pots, these little silver pots are examples of people not only vandalizing public spaces but taking drugs that can have psychological and neurological effects Behavior that promotes overall anti-social behavior.”
What does the ban mean?
Providing nitrous oxide is already illegal for its psychotropic effects, but the ban means possession could lead to prosecution.
The ban will be issued under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, but the drug has not yet been confirmed to be in category A, B or C.