Advice for parents - nitrous oxide (laughing gas)

We have launched a campaign to highlight the dangers of Nitrous Oxide to young people and we need your help to talk to your children.

Where's the harm - Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) get the factsNitrous oxide is a colourless gas that is most commonly found in pressurised metal canisters. You may have seen these metal canisters lying around in streets particularly outside bars and nightclubs.

It is becoming increasingly popular with young people in the UK and is readily available to buy online. Laughing gas is often categorised as a ‘legal high’ but is considerably less risky than others, such as synthetic cannabis and stimulant mixtures.

However, if someone takes too much nitrous oxide, they risk falling unconscious and/or suffocating from the lack of oxygen.

What does laughing gas do?

When it is inhaled, usually through a balloon, it can make people feel happy, relaxed, dizzy and lead to hallucinations. Taking several doses can prolong the dream-like effects. It is not a hallucinogen but there is often a distortion of audio and visual perceptions.

Young people may be more likely to try it after a few drinks and the dizzy feeling can increase the risk of people falling over and injuring themselves. This is a major risk of taking the drug.

How can you as a parent help?

Although parents should not categorise this behaviour as high-risk drug taking, you may be concerned that your child has taken something intoxicating.

Although you may be worried, it’s important to remember that they have not broken the law by possessing it. It’s a good idea for you to raise these issues with your children to ensure they understand the levels of risk, how best to stay safe – and how to look after their friends too.

Stay calm and open-minded when you talk to your child about drugs. Remember to look at the FRANK A-Z of drugs to make sure your knowledge is up-to-date and accurate.

There is information about drink and drugs, with help and support available for young people on our YouthZone website.

The law

  • It is illegal to sell nitrous oxide to anyone under the age of 18.
  • It is illegal to supply for human consumption (penalty is 7 years in prison or unlimited fine)
  • It is not illegal to possess nitrous oxide.

Where's the harm

Download the Where’s the Harm information booklet.

A guide for parents to help keep your children safe.