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Nitrous oxide to be categorised as class C drug

Nitrous oxide will be outlawed by the end of the year and categorised as a class C drug, the government says.

The categorisation of the substance, commonly referred to as laughing gas, means users could face two years in prison and sellers up to 14 years.

The move, set to come into force at the end of the year, comes after an investigation by Sky News revealed there had been a spike in hospital admissions caused by people using the party drug.

Nitrous oxide is the second most commonly used drug among 16 to 24-year-olds in England after cannabis.

Levelling up secretary Michael Gove announced in March that the gas would be banned under government plans to clamp down on anti-social behaviour.

His announcement went further than the recommendations of a review commissioned by the Home Office, which stopped short of recommending a ban.

In a statement, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: “The British people are fed up with yobs abusing drugs in public spaces and leaving behind a disgraceful mess for others to clean up.

“Earlier this year the prime minister and I promised a zero-tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour and that is what we are delivering.

“If you are caught using ‘laughing gas’ as a drug, you could be hit with a hefty fine or face jail time.”

The home secretary said new schemes are already underway to increase police patrols in hotspot areas where punishments can be given out more quickly.

Read more:
What is nitrous oxide?
How laughing gas addiction ‘messed up’ man’s life
Misuse of party drug laughing gas ‘is no joke’, neurologist warns

Data provided by the London Ambulance Service and given to Sky News showed that 999 calls for incidents relating to nitrous oxide more than tripled in a year, with 65 calls recorded in 2021, and 213 in 2022, up from 36 calls in 2018.

These patients can suffer from a range of problems, from loss of mobility to mental health issues and sexual dysfunction. Two nitrous oxide patients have even had to have drains inserted into their brains to save their eyesight.

In very severe cases the consequences can be deadly, with nitrous oxide related to the deaths of 62 people since 2001.

The ban was promised as part of the government’s Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, with the home Secretary urging police forces to get tougher on drug taking in the streets.

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

“There is no question that abusing laughing gas is dangerous to people’s health and it is paramount we take decisive action before the situation gets worse.

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