UK Psychoactive Substances Act comes into force from May 26, 2016


The British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA) has welcomed the introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act.

The new law has been introduced in time for this year's ‘festival season' and the BCGA hopes the Police and Courts will use the legislation to help put an end to recreational Nitrous Oxide inhalation.

Doug Thornton, Chief Executive of the BCGA, said: "Nitrous Oxide abuse has gone on since Victorian times, facilitated, in the upper classes, by physicians and dentists, who could access the gas.

"However, its abuse has increased significantly in recent years, to the point where the Home Office ranks it as the second most prevalent recreational substance in the UK, after cannabis. And these days the endorsement of its inhalation comes, not from medics, but from celebrity footballers and film and TV stars who allow themselves to be seen inhaling the gas.

"A popular misconception is that it must be safe to inhale, because it is used as a medical gas in dentistry, midwifery etc - where it is always used in conjunction with oxygen and under qualified medical supervision. Perhaps the name ‘'Laughing Gas' suggests it is fun to inhale and trivialises its risks, but it is absolutely not safe to inhale casually and there have been too many deaths resultant from its abuse. It is often seen on sale at festivals, raves, in clubs and on city centre streets, with Police, so far, somewhat powerless to intervene.

"So what's the harm? The ‘'drunken' state, which it induces, clearly puts users at all manner of risks with their judgement, thinking and motor functions impaired. The most obvious risk is immediate death by simple asphyxiation if users inhale too much, but before that, the ‘'Hypoxic' (partial starvation of Oxygen to the brain) condition which induces the euphoric feeling, can also cause heart arrest. Many of the deaths have occurred this way.

"Long term/repeated use can interfere with some complex biochemistry to in the body effect irreversible damage to the brain, central nervous system and liver.

"The other harm is in the motivation of crime. Whilst academics might debate whether the gas is chemically addictive, users certainly form a strong habit and compulsion to repeat the ‘'high'. This, of course, leads to the usual problems, which go with all substance abuse, of crime by the user to feed the habit, as well as organised crime in stealing the gas to supply in this area.

"The compressed gases sector is the UK's ‘invisible industry,' with medical - as well as industrial and food gases - playing a critical role in many aspects of life and underpinning a safe, successful and healthy nation.

"Members of BCGA operate in a highly-regulated industry and work together on safety, health, technical and environmental issues to achieve high standards of integrity and environmental care, both within their own and customers' working environments.

"BCGA's mission is to ensure safety in the use, storage, transportation and handling of compressed gases and we therefore wholeheartedly welcome the New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) law.

"We hope that the Police will enforce the new law vigorously and that festival organisers will look more seriously into actions they need to take to ban the gas from their events.

"In short, Nitrous Oxide abuse ruins lives. The new law will save some, but without impacting bona fide uses of the gas."

25 May 2016

This press statement is available to download here.



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