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EMCDDA review of nitrous oxide in Europe

In November 2022, the EMCDDA launched a new report ‘Recreational use of nitrous oxide – a growing concern for Europe’ which examines the trend of recreational nitrous oxide use across Europe.

The report examines the latest situation in terms of prevalence, the know health and social harms as well as different countries responses. To support this, the report also provides a state-of-the-art review of the chemistry, pharmacology and toxicology of the gas. In addition, it includes detailed country case studies from Denmark, France, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Portugal. A case study is also provided on the United Kingdom, where the use of nitrous oxide has been established in young people for a longer period.


Summary: Irish case study on nitrous oxide 

At present, nitrous oxide is not a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. It can be legally sold for catering and industrial purposes. The Criminal Justice

(Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010 prohibits the sale, importation or exportation of psychoactive substances; under this legislation, it is illegal to sell nitrous oxide for its psychoactive properties.


Nitrous oxide use among adults

Nitrous oxide use among young people

The only available data on nitrous oxide use among young people (<18 years) is a Planet Youth survey conducted among post-junior certificate students in schools in North
County Dublin in 2021. The questions on nitrous oxide were answered by 2 384 respondents. The main results were:

Nitrous oxide use in festival settings

Seizures of nitrous oxide

A request was submitted to An Garda Síochána regarding seizures of nitrous oxide. They replied that there have been a number of significant seizures of canisters containing nitrous oxide in Ireland over the past couple of years. However, information on the number and size of the seizures is not published as there are still issues in relation to the forensic analysis of nitrous oxide, which they are currently in the process of advancing.

Harms associated with nitrous oxide

Requests for information were submitted to a number of sources in order to assess the extent of nitrous oxiderelated harm in Ireland: the National Drug Treatment
Reporting System (NDTRS), the National Drug Related Deaths Index (NDRDI), the Hospital Inpatient Enquiry (HIPE) scheme and emergency departments.

National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS):

National Drug Related Deaths Index (NDRDI):

Hospital Inpatient Enquiry (HIPE) scheme: HIPE records information on discharges from hospitals in Ireland:

Emergency departments:

Posted by on 01/09 at 04:59 PM in
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