Nitrous oxide: Recreational use of laughing gas banned in the UK

In banning the party drug, the UK follows the Netherlands which, in January, became the first country in the world to outlaw recreational use of nitrous oxide after recording 1,800 car accidents over three years, resulting in 63 deaths.

Possession of laughing gas with the intent of getting high has been made illegal, with repeat offenders facing up to two years in jail. Dealers who peddle nitrous oxide – nicknamed “hippy crack” – could face up to 14 years behind bars.

The ban, promised as part of the government’s anti-social behaviour action plan, makes nitrous oxide a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. It is already against the law to produce or supply laughing gas for recreational use, but the new law will make possessing it illegal from Wednesday, November 8 onwards.

The ban will put it into the same category as benzodiazepines, known as ‘benzos’, which include valium. This means possession of nitrous oxide, where a person intends to wrongfully inhale it for a psychoactive effect, is now an offence.

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