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Smartwhip - Nitrous oxide

NOS is a colourless gas sold in canisters, usually inhaled using a balloon.

What does it look like?

Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas that’s most commonly found in pressurised metal canisters. You may have seen these shiny metal canisters or 'whippets' lying around in streets outside bars and nightclubs.

What does it taste/smell like?

Some people say that the gas has a slightly sweet smell and taste.

How do people take it?

Nitrous oxide is inhaled.

People open the canister, transfer the gas into a container (usually a balloon), then inhale from the balloon.

Inhaling nitrous oxide directly from the canister is very dangerous because the gas is under such high pressure and it comes out as extremely cold. This can damage your throat and lungs, stop you breathing or slow your heart to a dangerous level.

Using nitrous oxide directly from a large canister makes it harder to keep track of how much you are taking so you're more likely to suffer the negative effects of using a lot of gas.

How does it make you feel?

Nitrous oxide slows down your brain and your body’s responses, and the effects of the drug varies depending on how much has been inhaled. Taking nitrous oxide can cause:

  • feelings of euphoria, relaxation and calmness

  • fits of giggles and laughter – hence the nickname ‘laughing gas’

  • sound distortions and hallucinations – when you see or hear things that aren't there

Nitrous oxide can also:

  • give you a severe headache

  • cause dizziness

  • stop you thinking straight

  • cause short-lived but intense feelings of paranoia

How long the effects last

The drug stays in your system depends on how much you’ve taken, your size and what other drugs you may have also taken.

Nitrous oxide is often taken in combination with other drugs. So its effects can be unpredictable, as it depends on what other drugs are being taken with it. It is a short acting drug which can lead to people to frequently re-dose and end up using more than they intended.

Is it dangerous to mix with other drugs?

Yes. Every time you mix drugs you take on new risks. Mixing nitrous oxide with alcohol is especially dangerous as it can increase the risks associated with both substances and can lead to an increased risk of accidents.

Physical health risks

  • It is very dangerous to inhale nitrous oxide directly from the canister, and doing it in an enclosed space is also very dangerous.

  • Never place a plastic bag over your head.

  • If you take too much nitrous oxide you risk falling unconscious and/or suffocating from the lack of oxygen. People have died this way.

  • Dizziness, which might make you act carelessly or dangerously.

  • Heavy regular use of nitrous oxide can lead to a deficiency of vitamin B12 and to a form of anaemia. Severe B12 deficiency can lead to serious nerve damage, causing tingling and numbness in the fingers and toes. This can be very painful and make walking difficult. It can even lead to paralysis, and the damage may be lasting.

  • Regular use can stop you forming white blood cells properly.

  • It can be hard to judge the amount to use safely. If you have too much you can end up fainting, having an accident or worse.

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