Nitrous Oxide (N2O) Safety Information
What is Nitrous Oxide?
Nitrous Oxide is often categorised as a ‘depressant’, ‘dissociative’ or ‘inhalant’ type drug because of its effects and how it is inhaled. A depressant drug is one that slows the body down. A dissociative drug has effects which causes disconnect or detachment from oneself or reality.
What are the effects?
- ‘Dissociative effects’ change in senses, perception and feelings. Feeling detached from yourself and surroundings.
- People can feel euphoric, giddy and want to giggle or laugh
- Some people feel relaxation, floating, calm and a sense of wellbeing
- Time distortion – losing track of time
- Effects on sound or visuals – visual patterning or hallucination
- Some people may get a head ache, dizziness or blurred vision
- Loss of balance, feeling unsteady or disorientation
- Irritated respiratory tract – the part of the body that helps a person breath
- Tight chest after heavy use or for those with conditions such as asthma
- People could feel nausea
- Short lived paranoia
- It can also cause a change in blood pressure for some people or sudden death due to a lack of oxygen
Long term effects
- Changes in mood and depression
- Heavy and regular use can cause Vitamin B 12 deficiency which could lead to nerve damage
Taking Nitrous Oxide directly from the canister can increase harms
It is dangerous to inhale Nitrous Oxide directly from a canister. Inhaling directly from a canister can cause frost bite to the mouth and nose as well as cause damage the throat and lungs which can be risky.
Some people may be at greater risk to unwanted effects and becoming unwell
People with heart, blood pressure or mental health concerns could be at greater risk. Nitrous Oxide can cause a drop in oxygen levels which could increase heart rate.
People risk falling or accidents after use, risks are increased if used on highways or water.
Nitrous Oxide related litter is a concern in some areas.
Mixing drugs increases risk
Using Nitrous Oxide with other drugs increases the risks, including using with alcohol or prescription medication. It is possible that Nitrous Oxide taken at the same time as stimulants has a greater effect on blood pressure and heart rate.
Long term risks to health
Long terms and heavy use is associated with causing vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause nerve damage, pain/tingling in toes and fingers and changes to skin pigment.
Suffocation or lack of air
Suffocation can happen when taking Nitrous Oxide. People risk being deprived of oxygen if too much nitrous oxide is inhaled or if a person uses continuously without taking breaths. Internationally there are some reports of people experiencing suffocation or lack of oxygen.
Nitrous Oxide could be used in a compulsive way. However, there are no significant withdrawal symptoms known at present other than the desire to use more nitrous oxide.
It may be possible to become psychologically dependent on Nitrous Oxide, meaning that users develop an increased desire to keep using it despite the harm it may cause, but the evidence on this is limited. There is anecdotal evidence of psychological dependence.
For further information on Nitrous Oxide, please refer to