Nitrous Oxide (N2O, Laughing Gas, Whippits, Balloons)

New Jersey Nitrous Oxide Possession and Drug Distribution Defense Attorneys

Facts About Nitrous Oxide (N2O)

Street names: Laughing gas, nitrous, whippits, balloons, hippie crack

Drug Classification:  Nitrous is available over the counter in the US and is not restricted by the DEA. The FDA federally regulates its sale for human consumption, though many states have imposed their own laws banning its recreational use and limiting how much can be sold to whom.

New Jersey Drug law regulates nitrous oxide under Statute, Title 24 Food and Drugs; 24:6G-2 for the Sale and Purchase of Nitrous Oxide for Nonmedical purposes.

General Drug Information

Nitrous oxide is anesthetic gas commonly used in dentistry. It has quite a few non-medical applications, including use as a whipped-cream propellant and to increase engine performance in cars and planes. It is sold in small cartridges (whip-its) for making whipped cream, and in large tanks for medical applications or for vehicular use. It is a naturally occurring gas that is produced synthetically and sold.

Nitrous oxide is most commonly consumed recreationally by taking a small EZ Whip cartridge and placing it into a “cracker” with a balloon on the other end. Users twist the cracker until the cartridge breaks, releasing nitrous oxide into the balloon. Users then inhale the contents of the balloon. The onset of the effects is rapid, though they subside after a few minutes.

When inhaled, effects of Nitrous oxide may be felt within seconds and include laughter and giggling, sound distortion, euphoria, and even visual hallucinations. Users commonly report a “buzzing” sensation in peripheral nerves, accompanied by clumsiness and loss of balance. Negative experiences are not unheard of, as users sometimes report feelings of anxiety and confusion to accompany disorientation. Some users feel as if they are about to faint, and headaches are commonly reported as the effects of the drug wear off.

Side Effects

Although Nitrous oxide poses little threat of harm when sparingly for medical purposes, chronic and long-term use can cause a variety of health problems. Heavy or chronic use of Nitrous oxide can lead to a depletion of vitamin B12 in the body and accompanying numbness in fingers and toes. If left untreated, this can lead to long-term nerve damage. Heavy use also poses risks of damaging the central nervous system and causing side effects like seizures and convulsions.

Dangers and Overdose

Most of the direct dangers of Nitrous pertain to mistakes or accidents during ingestion. Brain damage and suffocation can result from a lack of oxygen to the brain if users inhale pure nitrous without an adequate oxygen intake supply. This can lead to suffocation or death even though the user will not feel the typical sensations of being unable to breathe. Those effects come about as a result of high levels of carbon dioxide. Thus, people inhaling nitrous may not have the sensation of being unable to breathe even though they aren’t getting enough oxygen. Users die every year when the balloon, bag, mask, or whatever they were using stays on their face as they lose consciousness. Injury can also be a result of inhaling nitrous when standing up or when trying to move around, causing the person to lose balance and fall.

Inhaling directly from a tank or some other pressurized container of Nitrous oxide is dangerous. The cold gas can freeze the lips and throat, the pressure can rupture blood vessels in the lungs and force air into the chest cavity, and users can suffocate if they leave the valve of the tank open when in a confined space, like a car.

Addiction and Abuse

Nitrous is not physically addictive, but it does lend itself to compulsive use in some individuals. It is not uncommon to find users that inhale nitrous every day, multiple times a day. It is also gaining prominence with rave culture, and is now commonly inhaled by people on ecstasy to intensify their experience.