The UK government is said to be seeking advice on whether to make the possession of laughing gas a criminal offence.
Following what has been described as a “concerning” rise in the use of nitrous oxide, the Home Office has asked the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to analyse the harm caused by the substance.
According to the Crime Survey, nitrous oxide – also known as laughing gas, “hippie crack” balloons, and nos – is now the second most-used drug among 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK – with more than half a million people in this age group in England and Wales using the drug in 2019-2020.
Its popularity is believed to be due to the fact that it is cheap and easy to get hold of.
A report by experts from the British Medical Journal (BMJ) released last June had revealed that there was “a visible mark of the increasing incidence of nitrous oxide (N2O) misuse” since the first COVID-19 lockdown began.
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 is 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.”
Nitrous oxide slows down brain and body responses and the effects of the drug is known to vary depending on how much has been inhaled.
Negative side effects of the inhalation of nitrous oxide include severe headaches, dizziness, inability to think straight, and short-lived, but intense feelings of paranoia. Regular use can stop you forming white blood cells properly and heavy regular use can result in deficiency of vitamin B12. Severe B12 deficiency can lead to serious nerve damage, causing tingling and numbness in the fingers and toes – which can be very painful and make walking difficult.
More serious side effects range from the risk of falling unconscious and/or suffocating from the lack of oxygen, which can and has lead to death, and according to the Office for National Statistics, there were 36 deaths in Britain associated with laughing gas between 2001 and 2016.
While the sale of nitrous oxide is illegal, it is not a crime to possess the drug at present, and the government believes this could also be a “significant factor” in its increasing use in recent years, alongside its prevalence.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said government ministers “stand ready to take action” if the ACMD recommends further restrictions on the drug.
Nitrous oxide was last reviewed by the ACMD six years ago.
The body concluded at the time that it did not warrant control under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, but the ACMD’s new review could recommend more education on the substance for young people, or tougher punishments for those who supply it.
“We are determined to do all we can to address this issue and protect the futures of our children and young people,” Priti Patel concluded.
Featured Image – Geoff Davies
Rio Ferdinand is helping change young lives with community programmes in Oldham and Salford
Ex-Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand and his foundation’s wonderful work is helping better the lives of young people in Oldham, Salford and across Manchester as a whole.
Over the past year, the Rio Ferdinand Foundation and The Guinness Partnership have been putting together a vital social initiative aimed at providing opportunities and resources to young people across Greater Manchester, helping them develop their skills and aspirations for future working life.
Now, after a hugely successful 12-month campaign, their skills and progression community programme, participants are well and truly starting to feel the impact, with 90% of those taking part now stating that they are enjoying a clear idea and focus on what they want to do for a career.
It may have be thriving in Salford and Oldham at the moment, but given the benefit the scheme has already had — not to mention the ambition the Rio Ferdinand Foundation has shown around various areas of the UK since being set up in 2012 — we can only see this spreading further across the region.
The skills-based initiative engages young people aged under 25 years old and living in Guinness homes in a six-month skills-based programme which has been up and running in the two Manc boroughs, as well as the London boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, since March 2022.
Young people from both Oldham and Salford take part in a weekly schedule of activities designed to tackle youth unemployment, including digital media training (photography, product design, filmmaking, podcasting), building and construction, CV workshops, mock interviews and more.
Not only do these shadowing opportunities garner confidence and raise aspirations among other young people in the local community, but they also help directly develop their employability skills via mentoring.
For instance, Matthew, 19 from Royton in Oldham, completed the programme and then was supported to apply to the Guinness Aspire Awards to request funding to purchase camera and lighting equipment to help him start a small local photography business. Quality stuff.
Matt says that the scheme “has been an amazing opportunity and has given [him] a chance to get back on the right path… I know what I want to do now and can’t wait to start… I would recommend that other people in my position get involved with it in the future.”
As well as markedly increasing participants health and well-being, all 100% of those involved across Salford and Oldham reported feeling more confident, with many now enjoying opportunities with the Rio Ferdinand Foundation’s partners such as Warner Music, Kiss FM, The Jockey Club and the Gym Group.
Speaking on the programme’s success, Rio himself said in a statement: “The Foundation is committed to working with young people at the heart of their communities to offer support, training, and opportunities to those that need it… engaging with the Guinness Partnership has provided a great boost to our reach and our work”.
Well in, Rio. Thankfully, he isn’t the only ex-Manchester-based footballer still trying to make a difference in the local community either:
Campbell, 38, was found dead in his home in Mossley, Tameside, on Saturday 3 July. He had been fatally assaulted and died of the injuries he sustained in the attack.
Belfield was arrested on 23 March 2023 by Suriname authorities on suspicion of drug-related offences – he’ll likely remain in the South American nation’s jurisdiction to face these charges.
Then GMP want to bring him back to Manchester to face questioning from GMP’s Major Incident Team.
Detective Chief Inspector Liz Hopkinson from GMP’s Major Incident team said: “The news of Belfield’s arrest is an important development in our investigation, we will be working with international law enforcement agencies to bring Belfield back to Manchester and continue in our pursuit to find answers for Thomas’ family.
“Through vigilance shown by our colleagues in South America, Belfield was recognised by Suriname’s law enforcement upon his arrest and information regarding his whereabouts was shared with our Force Critical Wanted Unit.
“We have previously released numerous appeals to ask for help in finding him and we thank the public for their continued support in this case.
“This is an excellent result which shows once again, that UK law enforcement does not give up on finding those abroad who are wanted for offences in the UK.”