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Festival-goers warned over nitrous oxide risk

Nurses warn people attending the Glastonbury festival of the dangers of recreational use of nitrous oxide

Nurses warn young people attending the Glastonbury festival of the dangers of recreational use of nitrous oxide


Glastonbury festival at dusk. Picture: Alamy

Nurses have issued a warning over the potentially fatal risks of recreational use of nitrous oxide, as hundreds of thousands of revellers head to the annual Glastonbury music festival.

The advice in a statement from the RCN follows a debate at the college’s annual congress in which nurses called for greater awareness of risks associated with the gas, also known as ‘noz’ or laughing gas, among young people.

It has been illegal to sell the gas for psychoactive purposes in the UK since legislation was introduced three years ago.

Despite this ban, the Home Office estimates that half a million people aged 16-24 in England and Wales used nitrous oxide in 2017-18.

Small canisters of the gas are dispensed into balloons for inhalation. Five years ago around two tonnes of the canisters were picked up at Glastonbury alone. This year’s festival, at Pilton in Somerset, is from 26-30 June.

RCN professional lead for mental health nursing Catherine Gamble said: ‘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.’

‘Damage could last a lifetime’

‘The fact is there are not only immediate risks to health but the damage could last a lifetime.

‘Along with the physical effects on the body, which themselves can be very serious, there are psychological impacts associated with the abuse of any substance that can lead to addiction.

‘People need to understand this is not a simple or safe alternative to other illegal drugs.’

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show an average of five deaths per year linked to nitrous oxide since 2014.

Use of the gas can cause choking or tightness in the chest, nausea or vomiting and a dangerously high heart rate.


Find out more

Nitrous oxide: Nursing staff warn its recreational use is no laughing matter (RCN congress report)

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