Possession and recreational use of ‘laughing gas’ is now illegal in the UK

Nitrous oxide has been reclassified as a class C drug from today (8 November 2023).

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 8th November 2023

The possession and recreational use of nitrous oxide is now illegal in the UK as new Government legislation takes effect from today.

Nitrous oxide – which is also known as laughing gas, ‘hippie crack’, balloons, and nos – is the second most-used drug among 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK, after cannabis.

If you’re unfamiliar with the substance, as defined by FRANK, nitrous oxide is “a colourless gas most commonly found in pressurised metal canisters which you may have seen lying around in streets outside bars and nightclubs.”

It’s often consumed by “transferring the gas into a container (usually a balloon), then inhaling from the balloon”, and this is because “inhaling nitrous oxide directly from the canister is very dangerous [as] the gas is under such high pressure, which can cause a spasm of the throat muscle and stop a person breathing.”

The popularity of the drug is believed to be due to the fact that it’s cheap and easy to get hold of, and it’s while it’s known to produce feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and calmness, as well as fits of giggles and laughter, it’s also linked to a wide range of negative side effects.

Possession and recreational use of ‘laughing gas’ is now illegal in the UK / Credit: Geoff Davis (via Geograph)

Doctors have regularly warned that prolonged usage could cause some serious health issues – and now the Government has finally listened.

After making the announcement of intent in early September, the Home Office has confirmed that, from today (8 November 2023), the possession and recreational use of nitrous oxide is now illegal in the UK, as the substance has been reclassified and upgraded to a class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.


The new legislation – which is part of the Government’s Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, that was promised earlier this year – means users of the substance could face up to two years in prison, while sellers could see themselves spend up to 14 years behind bars.

Other consequences include unlimited fines, a visible community punishment, and a caution which would appear on criminal records.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the British public are “fed up with yobs abusing drugs in public spaces and leaving behind a disgraceful mess for others to clean up” in a statement confirming the intention to reclassify nitrous oxide back in September.


Crime and Policing Minister Chris Philp said the country “cannot allow young people to think there are no consequences to misusing drugs”.

“We are delivering on the promise we made to take a zero-tolerance approach towards antisocial behaviour and flagrant drug taking in our public spaces,” he continued in a statement on the introduction of the new legislation today.

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“Abuse of nitrous oxide is also dangerous to people’s health and today we are sending a clear signal to young people that there are consequences for misusing drugs.

“Both users and dealers will face the full force of the law for their actions.”

Featured Image – Supplied (via Facebook)