Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, has surged in popularity in recent years and is now second only to cannabis as the drug of choice among those aged 16 to 24.
It may have a lighthearted name but frequent use can cause significant damage to the nervous system – producing paralysis in extreme cases. More commonly it induces peripheral neuropathy, which means tingling in the arms and legs, as well as bowel problems, erectile dysfunction and incontinence.
The government has announced it is to be banned from the end of this year, becoming a class C drug. The crackdown will see those caught selling the drug facing up to 14 years in prison. Possession of nitrous oxide could result in a two-year prison sentence, an unlimited fine or both.