Nitrous Oxide gas canisters (Nangs) in WA

18 October 2022

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is used as a medicine for the purposes of anaesthesia, sedation or pain management. In domestic and commercial catering settings, it is used as a propellant for whipped cream, to infuse flavours into alcoholic drinks, and to create mousses and foams.

N2O when inhaled, can cause giggle fits, short euphoria, sound distortions, blurred vision and loss of coordination.

Inhaling N2O has become common in Western Australia despite there being health risks involved, with the gas going by alternative names such as nangs, bulbs, whippets and laughing gas.

Excessive use of inhaling N2O can have damaging short- and long-term effects and can sometimes cause irreversible medical problems.

Short-term effects include:

  • inhaling directly from the bulb can burn your throat and lips or cause a fatal lung injury. Be aware that an unfiltered bulb also releases metal fragments
  • risk of being in a state of hypoxic, where the flow of oxygen to your body tissues is stopped or reduced and can cause injury to the brain
  • risk of passing out or blackout due to a lack of oxygen or injury.

Long-terms effects include:

  • vitamin B12 inactivation
  • neurological disorders
  • anaemia
  • impaired memory and forgetfulness
  • depression
  • hallucinations
  • paranoia
  • skin hyperpigmentation.

There has been growing national concern over the apparent trend of recreational misuse of N2O for inhalation. The national reclassification is in response to evidence of severe and potentially irreversible neurological damage seen with heavy and persistent recreational use of the gas.

Getting help

  • Call one of the Alcohol and Drug 24-hour support lines (external site) – providing confidential counselling, information, advice and referral.
  • See your GP
  • Call healthdirect (external site) 1800 022 222.
  • For emergency or life-threatening conditions, visit an emergency department or dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance – police are not called unless a death has occurred or ambulance officers are threatened.