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Nitrous Oxide ‘Laughing Gas’ Category: SedativesSolvents

Type of drug: depressant/dissociative/inhalant

Also known as: Laughing Gas, Whippets (cartridges of nitrous oxide), Whippit, Chargers, Bulbs, NoS, N2O, balloons, 'hippie crack'

Nitrous Oxide is a gas that has a number of industrial uses and is used clinically as an anaesthetic gas for pain-relieving properties when mixed with air.

It is a colourless gas that some say is slightly sweet smelling and tasting. It can be found in different forms such as whipped cream chargers ‘whippets’ which are small silver cartridges. It can also come as crackers with balloons attached or as balloons that have been filled with the gas.

It is inhaled, sometimes referred to as ‘nagging’

There are always risks with drugs, it is safer not to use.

It is important to note that each person will react differently to a substance. Effects can be based on a number of factors depending on; how much is taken and the dose which sometimes can be unknown, personal factors such as the persons seize and mental health, if the person has consumed the substance before and if other drugs, alcohol or prescription medication are used at the same time.

Short term effects

Below are common effects that a person may feel:

Long term effects

Other known risks


Nitrous oxide is sometimes used in a compulsive way. However, there are no significant withdrawal symptoms other than the desire to use more nitrous oxide.


Currently there are no reports of nitrous oxide dependence in the literature. There is anecdotal evidence of psychological dependence.

We continue to monitor this substance and the known risks. 

We continue to monitor this substance and the known risks.

Educating young people

Parents play an important role in educating young people of the risks asscociated with drug and alcohol use. To help parents discuss substance use, the HSE produced an advice leaflet to help parents guide the conversation. Download HSE Parents Guide here.Get the facts and reduce the harms.


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