Nitrous oxide is a colorless gas that is commonly used for sedation and pain relief but is also used by people to feel intoxicated or high. It is commonly used by dentists and medical professionals to sedate patients undergoing minor medical procedures. It is also a food additive when used as a propellant for whipped cream and is used in the automotive industry to enhance engine performance. Nitrous oxide is classified as a dissociative anaesthetic and has been found to produce dissociation of the mind from the body (a sense of floating), distorted perceptions and in rare cases, visual hallucinations.
When inhaling directly from tanks or whippets (bulbs), the gas is intensely cold (-40C degrees) and can cause frostbite to the nose, lips and throat (including vocal cords). The gas is also under constant pressure, it can cause ruptures in lung tissue when inhaled directly from these containers. Releasing the nitrous oxide into a balloon helps to warm the gas and normalise the pressure before inhaling.
People can also harm themselves if they use faulty gas dispensers, which may explode. Dispensing several gas canisters consecutively with one cracker (a handheld device used to ‘crack’ a nitrous oxide bulb/whippet) can also cause cold burns to the hands.
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries risk.
The effects of taking NOS – Nitrous Oxide with other drugs including over-the-counter or prescribed medications can be unpredictable and dangerous.