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What is NOS?

Nitrous Oxide - which to a lot of us is known as NOS or laughing gas, is an anaesthetic gas with pain-relieving properties. NOS has become widely available for recreational use and normally is used in social settings when the user would inhale the gas from a balloon using a whipped cream canister. As this drug is becoming widely popular, we must highlight like all drugs NOS has the potential for psychological dependency, although this can be rare.

NOS is a depressant drug that slows down the body. When it is inhaled it can make the user feel happy, relaxed, and hit the giggles, hence the name ‘laughing gas’. NOS can also lead to mild euphoria, feeling light-headed or dizzy and even cause slight hallucinations. Some people even experience headaches/nausea while using it.

Nicknames/Street names

Hippy Crack, Whippets Laughing Gas, NOS, NOZ, The ‘innocent’ Party Drug, Balloons, Chargers, Sweet Air.

Side Effects of NOS

  • Dizziness

  • Dissociation

  • Euphoria

  • Blurred Vision

  • Giggling/Laughing

  • Loss of balance

  • Sound Distortions

  • Nausea

  • Hallucination Effects

  • Tight chest – particularly after heavy use or if asthmatic

  • Deep silly voice

  • Headache

The risks of using NOS

Inhaling NOS can result in a lack of oxygen to the brain. This could result in unconsciousness or even death from suffocation or heart problems. This risk is greater if the gas has been consumed in an enclosed space with lack of natural air and a lot being used at the one time without breaks in-between.

Regular/heavy use of NOS has been linked to a B12 deficiency. This can lead to nerve damage which causes pain and tingling in the toes and fingers. Recent studies suggested a link between heavy use of the gas and anaemia.

It’s best NOT to drink alcohol when using NOS. Both are depressant drugs and when used together increase ill effects and often cause accidents. When you combine NOS with other drugs your breathing can become affected meaning your putting your body under serious pressure. Try to focus on one thing, rather than dual use.

NOS and The Law

Since the New Psychoactive Substances Law came into force in 2016 it has been illegal to sell or give away for other people to use. Those who are found doing so can face a fine or a prison sentence up to 7 years.

Harm Reduction Advice

The following information comes from Re-solve (

There is always a risk associated with taking drugs of any kind. This can be due to the drug itself, to the increased risk of accident, or to someone behaving in ways they wouldn’t otherwise choose (e.g. unsafe sex). Harm reduction advice includes the following:-

  • Be as informed as possible, particularly if you have pre-existing health conditions.

  • Be careful where you get your nitrous from. Make sure you are not being supplied a more dangerous gas like butane.

  • Don’t inhale directly from the charger.

  • Don’t use a mask or put a plastic bag over your head.

  • Don’t overdo it. If you plan to use more than one balloon, let your body recover in between.

  • Particularly if you’re vegetarian or anaemic, eat to replenish your levels of B12 – eggs, cheese, marmite etc. are good.

  • Don’t take drugs on your own. Stay with a group of friends and agree that one of you will stay sober in order to keep an eye out for the others.

  • Keep to one drug – don’t mix different drugs or drink alcohol. The results can be anything from unpredictable to actively dangerous.

  • Plan your evening, stay in a safe environment – and know how you’re getting home.

  • Don’t drive a vehicle while under the influence of nitrous oxide. There have been fatal accidents linked with nitrous oxide misuse.

Useful links and further reading

If you want to know more about NOS or are worried about someone’s use then please check out the useful links below:

To find out more useful information on Drugs and their effects, check out our drug information page or if there’s a drug we haven’t mentioned and you would like to know more about then drop us a message and we will update our site.


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