Increasing trends in self-reported use of nitrous oxide among Western Australian EDRS samples

August 2020
Grigg, J. & Lenton, S. (2020). Increasing trends in self-reported use of nitrous oxide among WA EDRS samples. Drug Trends Bulletin Series. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol

The Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) is a national drug monitoring system intended to identify emerging trends of local and national concern in illicit drug markets, and forms part of Drug Trends

There have been some indications that recreational use of nitrous oxide (also known as ‘nangs’, ‘whippets’, laughing gas, balloons, NOS and N20) and associated harms may be increasing in Australia and elsewhere.

This bulletin examines trends in the use of nitrous oxide among samples of people who regularly use ecstasy and other illicit stimulants surveyed as part of the Western Australia (WA) EDRS between 2003-2019. It also investigates correlates of self-reported recent (past six month) use of nitrous oxide among the 2019 national EDRS sample.

Key findings:

  • In 2019, 61% of WA participants reported recent use of nitrous oxide; the highest proportion observed since data collection commenced.
  • Nitrous oxide was used on a median of 10 occasions in the preceding six months (increasing significantly from 2018) and one in four consumers reported weekly use.
  • The median amount used in a ‘typical’ session was 10 bulbs, while the maximum median used in a session was 25 bulbs.
  • Increasing trends in the use of this inhalant raise concern about the risk of associated harms, particularly neurological damage associated with vitamin B12 depletion.
  • These findings suggest there may be a need for a targeted education/harm reduction campaign. There may also be a need to review existing regulation to reduce risks associated with 24/7 delivery services/promotions.

Read the full bulletin on the NDARC website.