This popular party drug will be illegal in the UK by the end of the year

Laughing gas will soon be categorised as a Class C drug

Amy Houghton
Written by
Amy Houghton
Contributing writer
Laughing gas canisters discarded on the grass
Photograph: Shutterstock

Nos, balloons, laughing gas, hippy crack – whatever name you know it by, you’ll likely have encountered nitrous oxide on a night out. Or, at the very least, you’ll have seen its byproducts scattered along city streets. 

Nitrous oxide is one of the most popular party drugs in the country and the second-most-used among 16-24-year-olds. Now, despite opposing advice from experts, the UK government has confirmed that the substance will be categorised as a Class C drug by the end of 2023.

What does that mean, exactly? Well, it’ll mean that unlawful possession of nitrous oxide will be punishable by up to two years in prison or a substantial fine. Supplying nos is already illegal but with the new classification someone caught producing or supplying the drug could get up to 14 years behind bars. 

In a statement, home secretary Suella Braverman said: ‘The British people are fed up with yobs abusing drugs in public spaces and leaving behind a disgraceful mess for others to clean up.

‘Earlier this year the prime minister and I promised a zero-tolerance approach to antisocial behaviour and that is what we are delivering. If you are caught using ‘laughing gas’ as a drug, you could be hit with a hefty fine or face jail time.’

Back in March, however, the Independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs warned against the ban, urging that the punishment would be disproportionate to the harm that the drug causes. Critics also say that it could discourage people from seeking medical help, thanks to increased stigma and fear of a criminal record.

Abuse of the substance has been linked to nerve-related symptoms such as paralysis and loss of sensation in the feet or hands, as well as spinal damage, neurological-related bladder problems, erectile dysfunction and incontinence.

The use of nitrous oxide in catering and as an anaesthetic in medicine and dentistry will remain legal.

ICYMI: here’s why loads of vapes are being banned in the UK.

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