A DRUG that became popular with teens despite severe health risks is finally set to be made illegal as part of a crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

Nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas, can cause paralysis or even death when abused but has largely slipped under the legal radar until now.

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Ministers are preparing to ban the sale and possession of nitrous oxide, known as nos or laughing gas[/caption]

Ministers are preparing to ban the direct sale or possession of the gas, with people found with it in public being subject to prosecution.

Only those with a “legitimate reason” for possession, such as chefs who use it for chilling food or dentists who give it as mild pain relief, would be exempted.

Nitrous oxide, sometimes known as nos, is now the most commonly misused drug by 16-24-year-olds behind cannabis.

Users release the gas into balloons from small metal canisters then inhale it to achieve a high.

The effects include euphoria, relaxation and giggling fits, hence its more well-known name.

It has boomed in popularity as it is relatively easy to get hold of and quite cheap in comparison to similar drugs.

However, side effects can include dizziness, impaired memory and weakness in the legs.

Some users have even died of asphyxia in accidents while under the influence of the gas.

Office for National Statistics data recorded 36 deaths related to its misuse between 2001 and 2016.

PM Rishi Sunak is understood to be keen on plans to ban nos as polling reveals anti-social behaviour to be a growing concern among the public.

A source told The Times: “There is a clear view that we have to act.

“There is a clear link between the use of nitrous oxide and anti-social behaviour and this is a top priority for the government.”

Michael Gove, the Levelling Up and Communities Secretary, indicated in a speech this week that the government’s plan on anti-social behaviour would be published shortly.

Two types of nitrous oxide bans are reported to be under consideration.

The first would ban the possession and sale of the gas without a “legitimate reason” and the second would require all those with a “legitimate reason” to apply for a licence.

The source added that the government is less keen on the latter as it would require more bureaucracy.

Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, reportedly backs the move and her allies say she has been privately pushing for tougher enforcement on low-level drugs like nos and cannabis.

The punishment for being caught with nos under the new laws is likely to be similar to that for Class C drug offences.

This would mean people caught in possession of the drug would face up to two years in prison and an unlimited fine.

Meanwhile, those supplying or producing the gas could face a 14-year jail term.

What are the side effects of taking nitrous oxide?

Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas that when inhaled can make people feel euphoric and relaxed.

The effects of the gas have seen it nicknamed “laughing gas”, but it can also cause some people to have hallucinations.

The effects are caused by the drug slowing down the brain.

Nitrous oxide is normally bought in pressurised canisters. It is then transferred to a container such as a balloon to be inhaled.

The gas can cause dizziness and affect your judgement, creating a risk of accidents.

In large quantities it can also cause the user to faint or pass out.

If nitrous oxide is inhaled through the mouth from a pressurised gas canister or in a confined space it can cause sudden death through lack of oxygen.

Heavy, regular use of the drug can cause a deficiency of vitamin B12 and a form of anaemia.

Severe vitamin B deficiency can cause serious nerve damage.

One woman was left paralysed from the chest down after inhaling 15 balloons of ‘hippy crack’ every weekend. For more information, see drugs advice site, Frank.

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