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No to NOX

For my newsletter this week I’d like to talk to you about something that I consider to be a burgeoning threat to health of many people - the increased misuse of a gas called Nitrous Oxide, a substance otherwise known as NOX or laughing gas.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O) is a chemical compound that has a variety of applications, from its use in whipped cream canisters to its use as a medical anaesthetic. It is included within the Psychoactive Substances Act and is currently illegal to supply the substance for purposes of intoxication, yet canisters of the gas can currently be obtained easily. NOX is becoming increasingly used as a recreational drug and is now the UK's second most commonly misused substance (Home Office, 2018; ONS 2020).

When talking to youth workers, my office was told that for young people the use of NOX is normalised with many of them not viewing it as a drug or understanding the risks. In fact, the drug is glamorised on social media and many view it as entertaining and a bit of ‘harmless fun’.

The issue is that this so-called “harmless fun”, can have detrimental and long-lasting effects on its users' lives. Many young people will use NOX in unsafe environments and mixed with alcohol, putting themselves at great risk. The drug can cause long-term health problems such as a deficiency in vitamin B12, nerve damage and paralysis. Regular or heavy use of the drug can also cause anaemia and hallucinations. But it is not just medical damage that this drug has; NOX can be a ‘gateway’ drug too. 

Recently, I have heard from partner agencies that they are noticing an increase in canister, and balloon litter being left in our parks and gardens, and these are not just small canisters being left, but instead large 600g+ catering style ones, reflecting a new trend in increased usage.

Last year, the Home Secretary asked the Advisory Council on the misuse of drugs to review the legal status of NOX, a move that I welcomed. However, the review is yet to be completed. I believe it is vital that this is done as a matter of urgency so that we can protect the most vulnerable people in our communities from using this highly damaging drug.

It was recently announced that the Netherlands will outlaw the sale and possession of NOX for personal use from January 2023. This decision was prompted by a surge in road accidents in the Netherlands caused by drivers using this drug – 1,800 in the three years to October 2021, including 63 fatal collisions. I’d like to see the UK government follow suit before it’s too late and we see a similar increase in road accidents and fatal collisions.

I hope this newsletter can create awareness – let’s all of us whether grandparents, parents, teachers, youth workers or indeed concerned individuals, help stop this drug’s usage before more young people are harmed by it.


David Sidwick

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner



Home Office. (2018, November). Review of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2020, from

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