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Update on criminal nitrous oxide legislation

Yesterday (8 November) possession of nitrous oxide was made illegal.

More commonly known as "laughing gas", it is now categorised as a controlled Class C drug. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, anyone caught dealing NO could face up to 14 years in prison, whilst repeat serious users could be jailed for up to 2 years.

The possession of laughing gas with the intention of inhaling it, i.e. to get high, has also been made illegal. Potential consequences for offenders include an unlimited fine, a visible community punishment and a caution, which would appear on their criminal record. Repeat serious offenders could also be jailed.

Detective Chief Inspector Phillip Bryan, our drugs lead, said: "This legislation has been brought in as a matter of public health and safety.

"Heavy, regular abuse of laughing gas can lead to significant health risks, such as anaemia, nerve damage and paralysis.

"Being under the influence of nitrous oxide whilst behind the wheel is also highly dangerous, and could ultimately prove fatal for drivers, their passengers and other road users.

"I hope that this law change will discourage as many people as possible from misusing this substance."

Chief Constable Richard Lewis, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Drugs, said: “Tackling anti-social behaviour in communities is a key objective of the police service and any new laws or powers that assist in this regard are welcome.

“Policing will work with the Government following their decision to make possession of nitrous oxide, without a legitimate reason, a criminal offence, as opposed to just supply and intent to supply.”

We are reminding anybody who thinks that they or a loved one has a problem with drugs that they can call FRANK anytime on 0300 123 6600 for confidential advice. Alternatively, they can visit for more in-depth guidance.


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