Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas, also known as ‘laughing gas’.
Nitrous oxide is a Class C drug and it is an offence to possess it unless it can be shown it was possessed for one of the legitimate statutory exemptions. Nitrous oxide has widespread legitimate uses, including in medical, dental, and veterinary settings and those with a legitimate reason for possessing the substance will be exempt from the ban.
However, possession with the intent to wrongfully inhale the substance or to supply to another person for it’s wrongful inhalation is an offence. ‘Wrongful inhalation’ means inhalation for purposes other than medical or dental purposes or of nitrous oxide that has been released into the atmosphere. It includes inhalation for the substances psychological effects and the offence is designed to prevent people recreationally inhaling the substance for this reason.
The consequences for the offence of unlawful possession could include an unlimited fine, a visible community punishment, a caution and for repeat serious offenders, a prison sentence.
It is also an offence to import, export, produce or supply nitrous oxide where a person intends to wrongfully inhale the substance or where the individual knows, or is reckless as to whether, it is likely that another person will wrongfully inhale it.
There are serious health risks associated with the use of nitrous oxide, heavy use can result in neurological damage and even death due to the risk of falling unconscious and/or suffocating from the lack of oxygen.