Recreational use of nitrous oxide — a growing concern for Europe


The purpose of this report is to examine the current situation, risks and responses to the recreational use of nitrous oxide in Europe. To support this, the report also provides a state-of-the-art review of the chemistry, pharmacology and toxicology of the gas. It is intended for policymakers and practitioners.

The report is structured as follows:

  • Section 1 provides a summary of the current situation, established risks and responses.
  • Section 2 is a technical review of the chemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, individual risks and legitimate uses.
  • Section 3 provides an overview of the epidemiology and social risks. In addition, it includes detailed country case studies from Denmark, France, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Portugal. A case study is also provided on the United Kingdom, where the use of nitrous oxide has been established in young people for a longer period, and these experiences, including the response, may be helpful in informing responses in other countries (even though the UK is no longer a member of the EMCDDA, having left the EU on 31 December 2020).

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