The Government takes the supply of substances for their psychoactive effect seriously. There are legitimate uses for nitrous oxide, such as in medicine, dentistry and as a propellant for whipped cream canisters, but those who supply nitrous oxide who know, or who are reckless as to whether, it will be used for its psychoactive effect may be subject to a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.
The Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 introduced powers, such as Public Space Protection Orders, which the police and local councils can use to prevent people from taking intoxicating substances, including psychoactive substances such as nitrous oxide, in specified areas.
On 3 September, the Government asked the independent statutory advisory body, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, to provide an updated assessment of the harms of nitrous oxide, including whether it should be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The ACMD is independent of Government and provides a broad range of recommendations, including advice on legislative changes. The Government will consider the ACMD’s advice carefully before deciding how to proceed.