Festivalgoers headed to Glastonbury are told to not use laughing gas as top nurses warn nitrous oxide is NOT a safe alternative to other illegal drugs
- Glastonbury Festival starts today and experts say the drug is popular at festivals
- Nitrous oxide, known as nos, is inhaled to give a high but can be deadly
- Despite it being made illegal in 2016 it is still easily available for many people
- Bad effects of the drug include vomiting, headaches and choking
The country’s top nurses have warned festivalgoers not to take nitrous oxide ahead of Glastonbury this weekend.
Worthy Farm in Somerset is already filling up with thousands of people ready for one of the country’s biggest and most popular festivals.
And while the heatwaves and hangovers may be a rite of passage, people are being urged to stay away from laughing gas, also known as ‘nos’.
The drug, which is inhaled from a balloon, is not a safe alternative to illegal drugs, the Royal College of Nursing warned, and can cause serious health damage.
Top nurses have warned about the dangers of taking nitrous oxide, which is usually inhaled from a balloon (Pictured: A woman at Glastonbury Festival in 2015, before the drug was illegal)
‘When people are pitching their tents at festivals this summer, they should not stake their health on thinking laughing gas is safe way to get a high,’ said the RCN’s Catherine Gamble.
‘The fact is there are not only immediate risks to health but the damage could last a lifetime.’
Nos is most popular among people aged between 16 and 24 and around half a million of them have used it in the last year, according to the Government.
But the high it gives can come at a high price – abusing the drug may lead to suffocation or fainting, or lead to addiction and nerve damage over the long term.
Laughing gas was made illegal as part of the ‘legal highs’ legislation in 2016 but it is still widely available because it’s used by chefs to make whipped cream.
Last month the RCN’s Ms Gamble admitted the law is ‘clearly not working’ and the drug is still commonly used.
Research found one in 10 young men had inhaled the gas, with use among young women around half of that. 23 per cent of people said they could get it easily.
By inhaling the gas from an inflated balloon people may experience euphoria, laughter or fits of giggles, hallucinations and distorted sounds.
Laughing gas canisters (pictured) are used by chefs to make whipped cream so are easy to get hold of, despite using them as a recreational drug being made illegal in 2016
Glastonbury Festival started yesterday (pictured: the first visitors arriving) and the Royal College of Nursing warned nitrous oxide is popular at festivals, particularly in young people
The silver canisters laughing gas comes in are damaging to the environment and the RCN said around two tonnes of them were thrown away at Glastonbury (pictured) last year
WHAT IS ‘NOS’?
Nos, also known as laughing gas, is a gas called nitrous oxide which people inhale to get high.
The drug is illegal for recreational use but is used by chefs to make whipped cream so is easy to buy.
People inhaling the drug usually do so by filling a balloon with it and breathing it in over the course of a minute or so.
The drug can produce a feeling of euphoria, lead to laughing or fits of giggles, cause hallucinations, and distort the sounds people hear.
Its effects are usually short-lived but it can cause much longer lasting health damage.
Because breathing it in essentially replaces the air you breathe with the drug, there is a risk of suffocation. People may also pass out because of the lack of oxygen.
Inhaling nitrous oxide can also lead to severe headaches, dizziness, paranoia or stop you being able to think straight.
It can also become addictive and, over time, lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency which can cause nerve damage in the hands and feet. Long-term use can also stop the body producing white blood cells effectively, damaging the immune system.
The high is usually short-lived, but the drug can have long-lasting ramifications which people understand as well as they do other illegal drugs, experts say.
Ms Gamble added: ‘Along with the physical effects on the body, which themselves can be very serious, there are the psychological impacts associated with the abuse of any substance which can lead to addiction.
‘People need to understand this is not a simple or safe alternative to other illegal drugs.
‘You might be expecting a quick and easy high but you could easily have your balloon burst and come down to earth with a bump that could last a lifetime.’
Short-term negative effects laughing gas can cause include a dangerously high heart rate, feeling sick or vomiting, or even falling unconscious.
The process of inhaling it replaces oxygen in the lungs with the gas which can also make it difficult to breathe, cause choking or starve the brain.
People may also suffer dizziness, headaches or paranoia, and can even die – an average of five deaths per year have been reported since 2014.
Longer-term effects if the drug is taken repeatedly can include a vitamin B12 deficiency which may lead to nerve damage.
And as well as potential damage to people’s bodies and mental health, the metal canisters nitrous oxide comes in are damaging to the environment.
This effect may last a long time, with nos being almost 300 times more harmful than carbon dioxide for the environment.
Five years ago around two tonnes of the tiny canisters were picked up at Glastonbury alone, the RCN said.
NITROUS OXIDE DEATHS 1993-2016