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‘Laughing gas’ abuse in Guernsey not “a significant issue”

‘Laughing gas’ abuse in Guernsey not “a significant issue”

Tuesday 28 March 2023

‘Laughing gas’ abuse in Guernsey not “a significant issue”

Tuesday 28 March 2023

There are no plans to ban nitrous oxide in Guernsey, despite the UK government seeking to make possession of the gas illegal as part of a wider crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

Neither the Health Improvement Commission or Guernsey Police view the use of nitrous oxide – commonly known as laughing gas – as either prevalent or a problem in the island.

What is nitrous oxide? 

Nitrous oxide is a gas that - when inhaled - gives the user a short high. It often leads to feeling of lightheadedness, euphoria and can give people the ‘giggles’, leading to its nickname (laughing gas). It commonly comes in small metal cannisters. Packaged this way the cannisters are used to prime whipped cream dispensers. 

When abused, the gas is expelled into balloons and then breathed in. As the second most common party drug in the UK – behind cannabis – its use has led to an increase in discarded cannisters and balloons in public places, such as parks. And it’s this issue that has led to the UK government cracking down on the drug’s use. 


What are the dangers of using ‘laughing gas’? 

According to the national drug advisory service ‘Frank’ nitrous oxide abuse can lead to suffocation, as the brain can be starved of oxygen. Additionally, it can lead to certain forms of anaemia and nerve damage.  

Express reached out the Health Improvement Commission – a charity which seeks to encourage healthy living in the Bailiwick – for more information about nitrous oxide use locally. 

“Risks include falling unconscious from lack of oxygen when inhaling nitrous oxide,” said the Substance Use Lead for HIC, Andrea Nightingale. 

“[It] can cause dizziness which might cause careless/dangerous actions.” Ms Nightingale said it is especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol, as it increases the risks of accidents. She also warned that using the gas can cause “headaches, dizziness, paranoia and hallucinations”.  

Why is it being banned? 

While the list of nitrous oxide side effects is arguably quite long, it's not the sole reason the UK government is looking to ban the product.  

The move is part of a wider crackdown on anti-social behaviour, which has also included proposed higher fines for graffiti and littering.  

Levelling up secretary, Michael Gove, cited “little silver cannisters” spoiling public spaces as one of the reasons why the gas will be banned under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. 

What is the situation in Guernsey? 

The use of nitrous oxide has not been reported by local services as an issue and there have been no reported instances [of its use] by local drug services. 

Presently, we have no plans to follow the UK,” said Ms Nightingale.As mentioned before, it does not have a presence locally." 

Additionally, Guernsey Police does not view the misuse of nitrous oxide as “a significant issue in the Bailiwick”.  

“There is no intelligence to suggest that it is widely misused,” said a spokesperson. “With regard to its status, Nitrous Oxide is a Prescription only Medicine, under the Medicines (Human and Veterinary) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2008. It is legitimately used in medicine and dentistry, and is also used in catering.” 

There are no plans to follow the UK in Jersey either. 

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