Nightclubs and festivals that sell laughing gas (Nitrous Oxide) may face prosecution, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and LACORS, the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services have warned.
Although the gas can be legally purchased and used for food related purposes (i.e. whipping cream), the supply of nitrous oxide for inhalation (i.e. recreational drug use) is strictly illegal, as it can only be supplied in this form by a registered pharmacist.
Vendors, who supply nitrous oxide for inhalation purposes or allow it to be supplied, are committing an offence under Section 52 of the Medicines Act 1968 of selling and/or supplying a pharmacy medicine not under the control of a pharmacist.
LACORS has written to councils across the UK, recommending that they warn nightclubs, festival organisers, and bars in their municipality of the status of Nitrous Oxide. Councils that find venues to be in breach of this warning would then report them to the MHRA, and potentially prosecute them.
Whilst the inhalation of nitrous oxide may be perceived by some as ?harmless activity? ? there are a number of health risks associated with its inhalation. The ?rush? users experience is caused by starving the brain of oxygen. This can cause the user to collapse and injure themselves when falling. Repeated inhalation increases the risk.
There are also long-term dangers to health (including bone marrow suppression, blood cell problems and poisoning of the central nervous system). These risks are likely to be exacerbated if the drug is combined with alcohol or other narcotics. The risks are particularly severe for pregnant women.
Mick Deats, Head of Enforcement and Intelligence at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said, ?The sale of nitrous oxide for medical use is strictly regulated and anyone selling the drug for recreational use, whether or not they have a licence, face prosecution. Nitrous oxide is Pharmacy status. Misuse of nitrous oxide carries serious health risks. A website selling nitrous oxide has been brought to our attention and we are currently investigating any possible breaches of the Medicines Act.?