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Nitrous oxide abuse

Residents have told us that antisocial behaviour linked to the taking of nitrous oxide, otherwise known as 'laughing gas', has become a significant concern. Nitrous oxide can also be referred to by nicknames, including 'Hippy crack' or 'Nos'.

Users of nitrous oxide often gather in large groups to take the gas, which residents find intimidating. Groups of people taking nitrous oxide also cause a noise nuisance.

The small metal canisters that contain nitrous oxide are often left on the floor as litter, along with the cardboard boxes they can come in.

So, what can we do together to tackle this issue?

What you need to know about nitrous oxide abuse

Although the gas was previously a ‘legal high’, it's now illegal to supply or import nitrous oxide for personal use, under the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985.

Nitrous oxide can cause dizziness and affect the user’s judgement. This puts people at risk of hurting themselves.

Research is still being done into the long-term effects of nitrous oxide, with some health conditions including heart problems, nerve damage, loss of consciousness, and deaths already linked to its use.

What we are doing

Enforcement

Our Community Safety Team and Neighbourhood Policing are working in partnership to reduce incidents of antisocial behaviour affecting the wider community. This includes groups congregating and causing a nuisance while under the influence of nitrous oxide.

Illegal sale

Our Trading Standards team is working with the police and residents to tackle retail outlets and individuals selling gas to people who misuse it.

Littering

Our street cleaning teams are picking up discarded canisters from estates, parks, and streets.

Prevention

We hope this information will discourage people from using nitrous oxide, and act as a valuable resource for parents when talking to their children.

We will also be talking to school children about the dangers and effects of nitrous oxide as part of the substance abuse schools programme, not only through schools but also partner agencies working with young people outside of school.

What you can do 

Report activity

You can report retail outlets selling nitrous oxide to our Trading Standard team by calling 01642 726001, or via the MyMiddlesbrough website. You can also report any intelligence of individuals engaged in the supply and distribution to minors through the same process.

Parents/guardians/carers

Having sensitive conversations with young people in your care and responsibility are the best way to increase their resilience, and potentially help them make an informed choice about their behaviour. To have these conversations you need to be fully aware of the risks associated with abusing nitrous oxide. Please visit the useful links section below to find out more.

Useful links

Drug Wise: nitrous oxide factsheet (PDF)

Drug Watch: nitrous oxide information sheet (PDF)

Home Office: Guidance on restricting the supply of nitrous oxide for recreational use (PDF)

Drug Wise: nitrous oxide

Parent Info: Laughing gas: not funny

Talk to Frank: nitrous oxide

BBC News: how dangerous is laughing gas?