Nitrous Oxide (N2O) is a colourless gas that is commonly used for sedation and pain relief. It is also used by people to feel intoxicated. When inhaled, it causes rapid analgesia (pain relief), euphoria, mild sedation & psychedelic dissociation. It has been used in dentistry since the mid-1800s and recreationally since the late 1700s when it earned the name ‘laughing gas’ because of its tendency to cause laughter in those who inhale it. 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.
N2O that is prepared for automotive use or any other use than human consumption should not be inhaled, as other dangerous chemicals may have been added to the mix. It is also increasingly being used to treat people withdrawing from alcohol dependence. Nitrous oxide is classified as a dissociative anesthetic and has been found to produce dissociation of the mind from the body (a sense of floating), distorted perceptions and visual and audio hallucinations.
Know Your Body & Mind — ‘Set’
Know Your Environment — ‘Setting’
Know Your Drug — Practice Harm Reduction
The gas is inhaled. Most people use a cream whipper to extract the pressurised gas from the bulb. It is recommended to release the gas into a balloon rather than take it directly from the cream whipper.
DURATION OF EFFECTS
Total Duration: 1-5 minutes
Onset: 0-60 seconds
Peak: 1-5 minutes
Coming Down: 10 minutes
After Effects/Hangover: 15 minutes
Half life: Even though the apparent effects of the drug wear off after 5 -10 minutes, the drug is still active in your system for up to 15 minutes after you have taken it. Remember this if using other substances or redosing.
Effects vary from person to person. Check out our table below that has listed the potential physical, psychological and emotional effects.
Taking drugs is never without risk. In an unregulated market it’s impossible to know the purity or dose of any drug. ‘Dose’ depends on the form a drug is in (liquid, powder, pill, crystal) and how you have it (snort, eat, inject).
- Use in a comfortable environment with people you trust
- The average amount used during the course of a session is 1-5 cartridges/bulbs or 1-5 balloons. A couple of deep inhalations is usually adequate to produce effects.
- Ensure you are always breathing oxygen too.
- Although nitrous has a very short duration, it can cause blackouts in some people and in high doses.
- It is a good idea to sit down when using and go easy until you get used to the effects
- Try not to use it continuously for prolonged periods.
- Don’t use it around dangerous objects in case of losing your balance and falling on them.
Roadside Police: Roadside saliva tests do not look for nitrous. It is illegal to drive under the influence of any illicit drugs, including nitrous oxide and any driver may be subject to a roadside behavioural impairment test. Wait at least 2 hours before driving.
Workplace: It is very rapidly metabolised therefore it is not able to be tested.
‘Pill Testing’/Drug Checking: Can’t be tested for.
- Analgesia (pain relief)
- Clumsiness/loss of balance
- Buzzing sensation in fingers/toes
- Nausea, Sedation
- Numbness in extremities with regular use
- Reduced vitamin B12 levels
- Mood lift
- Sound distortions
- Aural hallucinations
- Dream-like state
- Minor-strong visual hallucinations and visuals
- Reduced perception of external stimuli
- Try to use it in a safe environment with friends and people you trust – somewhere you feel comfortable.
- Sit or lie down when using it as it can affect your ability to stand.
- Keep your head elevated slightly if lying down.
- Take breaks between sessions & breathe lots of fresh air between inhalations.
- Only a couple of inhalations from a balloon is needed to absorb most nitrous.
- Releasing the nitrous oxide into a balloon helps to warm the gas and normalise the pressure before inhaling.
- The gas is freezing (-40C degrees) & can cause frostbite to the nose, lips and throat (including vocal cords).
- The gas is under constant pressure, it can cause ruptures in lung tissue when inhaled directly from these containers.
- Use cotton balls or pieces of fabric to filter out possible metal particles from the bulbs when inhaling directly from the cream whipper.
- If using a small handheld cracker, always put into a balloon and do not directly inhale. You can get frostbite and internal burns from direct using.
- Avoid sharing balloons and cream whippers to reduce the risk of transferring bacteria and viruses like herpes to one another.
- Make sure you are breathing oxygen and not blocking your airway while high. Oxygen deprivation does not increase the high.
- For instructions on filtering cream chargers check out DanceWize NSW’s nangs guide
LONG TERM EFFECTS
Depletion of vitamin B12 can cause numbing of fine nerve endings – especially noticeable in the fingers & toes. Using supplements can help this.
- For advanced depletion vitamin B12 shots are used to treat. If left untreated, B12 deficiency can lead to long-term damage.
- Exposure to nitrous oxide has also been linked to lowered fertility rates in women.
Carrying nitrous and paraphernalia puts you at risk of criminal charges including trafficking, even if you don’t deal. Know your local laws Know your local laws e.g. the Drugs Misuse Act 1986 (Qld), the Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substance Act 1981 (Vic).
- Nitrous oxide bulbs are extremely flammable as all pressurised gases are at risk of explosion. Do not use near an open flame.
- Nitrous bulbs can be recycled at certain recycling centres. Please dispose of responsibly to protect the earth, and each other from injury.
- Cleaning out your equipment from bacteria, gunk, grease.
It is not recommended to use nitrous if you have or are at risk of:
Pregnant as it may cause miscarriage
History of anaemia
Breathing difficulties or other respiratory issues
Polydrug use has many possible outcomes. What could be fun for one person could be dangerous for another. We do not endorse any of these combinations and recommend you proceed with caution.
Depressants (GHB, alcohol,benzos & opioids) – increased risk of losing consciousness
Psychedelics (LSD,DMT, magic mushrooms, 2CB) – can lead to a short intense increase of psychedelic experience that may be experienced as challenging.
Low risk effects
MDMA – can cause nausea
Alcohol – can cause nausea
Check out the TripSit drug combinations chart here for info on other combinations.
Call 000 if experiencing adverse effects, feel unwell or concerned in any way
This educational resource has been developed collaboratively by healthcare workers and people who use drugs for their peers and the wider community. The role of Hi-Ground is to provide practical, evidence-based, unbiased information to assist you to make educated choices and to promote harm reduction, community care, and wellbeing.
In an unregulated market it’s impossible to know the purity or dose of any substance. Taking drugs from an unregulated market carries its own risk, and you can educate yourself and practice harm reduction to reduce this risk.
Knowledge is power.
This resource is produced by DanceWize & Hi-Ground