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Laughing Gas Taken by 350,000 Young People Last Year - Drug Survey Shows Shift From Illegal to Legal Drugs

LONDON, July 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

The Crime Survey (for England and Wales) released today shows a "worrying trend" from illegal to legal drugs, says legal highs charity, Angelus. Although the fall in the use of drugs like cocaine and ecstasy are welcome, there have been dramatic rises in the use of legal drugs such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and salvia (a powerful hallucinogenic herb).

The Angelus Foundation website says, "The major risk of harm from N2O derives from its strong intoxicating effects and loss of bodily control. The risk of physical injury is ever present if that person is already intoxicated by other substances, if it is taken when standing up or after several doses. N2O is not a risk free substance. Exposure to large amounts starves oxygen to the body and can cause brain damage. Daily use will lead to a level of dependence."

The UN Office and Drugs and Crime last month estimated the numbers of young people in UK (aged 15-24) who have taken a legal high as 670,000 - by far the highest in Europe.

The founder of Angelus, Maryon Stewart, said: "These figures look initially encouraging but they mask a worrying trend. There is an under current shift of drug taking from illegal substances to legal ones. There is a rapidly expanding headshop market and we know that festivals are strewn with nitrous oxide canisters. These are not harmless drugs particularly taken with alcohol. They work by starving the brain of oxygen and can cause brain damage. Young people are taking massive risks with these substances - they can buy these drugs easier than they can buy beer."

Notes to Editors:

  1. Maryon Stewart lost her daughter, Hester, to GBL in 2009 and established the Angelus Foundation. It is the only drugs charity dedicated to combating legal highs and club drugs and launched a national campaign in October including the website There is also a site for families
  2. The Crime Survey for England and Wales showed more than 350,000 young people have used or the laughing gas nitrous oxide in the past year (6 percent of all 16- to 24-year-olds). There were declining trends for cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy.
  3. Nitrous Oxide is a non-flammable gas, which is used medically as a mild analgesic and as a general anaesthetic. Once inhaled it works by giving a 'dissociative' or out of body effect.  It has strong, short-term intoxicating effects. Exposure to large amounts starves oxygen to the body and can cause brain damage. N2O is a pharmacy only medicine, meaning that it can only be supplied by a pharmacist. There are licensed products available, which provide medical supplies of nitrous oxide in large cylinders for use in a healthcare environment. It is also supplied legally to the catering industry for use in whipping cream.  
  4. The UN Office and Drugs and Crime last month estimated the numbers of young people in UK (aged 15-24) who have taken a legal high as 670,000 (or 8.2 percent) - the highest in Europe.


SOURCE Angelus Foundation
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