The government has announced that laughing gas will be illegal by the end of the year.
Nitrous Oxide also known as Nos or laughing gas is set to be categorised as a Class C drug and made illegal by the end of 2023. The recreational drug is popular among uni campuses due to it being cheap, easy to buy and currently not illegal to take.
Since 2016 it has been illegal to produce or supply Nos for human consumption but possession currently holds no penalty.
However, for years doctors have warned of the health risks including falling unconscious or suffocating from a lack of oxygen and this announcement means that once the drug classification changes, you could face jail time for possession or supply of Nos.
How long could I go to prison for doing Nos?
When Nos is categorised as a Class C drug, it will be the same status as other drugs such as Anabolic steroids and benzodiazepines. The current maximum prison sentence for possession of Class C drugs in the UK is up to 2 years, an unlimited fine or both. If you are caught supplying Nos, the maximum penalty could see you serving up to 14 years in prison, as well as an unlimited fine.
This means that if you are caught with Nos, or large quantities and it’s suspected that you could be dealing, or sharing it with your friends you could be facing a lengthy prison sentence.
The move to a Class C classification means that the penalties for taking and being caught with Nos are now much more serious, and Nos could potentially move up in classification if further research comes out to support the danger. The exception will be for businesses that can prove they’re using Nos for legitimate purposes, such as whipped cream in cooking or the medical and catering industries.
Cannabis was previously a Class C drug but was moved to Class B in 2009 and there has been talk since 2022 of it moving it to Class A. The higher the classification the more serious the penalties, so if Nos was to eventually move up this could carry even larger sentences.
Why is Nos dangerous?
Nos has been proven to be extremely dangerous, as it is inhaled and poses the risk of dizziness and fainting. Other symptoms include headaches, anxiety or paranoia. Long-term symptoms can include nerve-related bladder or bowel problems and erectile dysfunction. In more serious cases, it can cause permanent nerve damage, paralysis or even death.
UK doctors have seen more and more young people coming into hospitals with complications from long-term use which has led to the move to make Nos illegal.
A 16-year-old girl sadly passed away in 2022 after inhaling Nos at a house party, with many other death cases also reported, so the move to Class C classification will be welcomed by many. However, with the popularity of laughing gas with young people and students specifically, this is sure to also be a controversial move.