On 6 March 2023 the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) published its harms assessment report on nitrous oxide following calls for the Home Secretary and PCCs to review the harms associated with the drug.
In response to the report, APCC Addictions and Substance Misuse Leads and Police and Crime Commissioners David Sidwick and Joy Allen, said:
“The use of nitrous oxide in our communities is becoming increasingly concerning to us as Police and Crime Commissioners and the wider public.
“Small silver cannisters are now a frequent sight on our streets and at recreational areas in our communities and members of the public are rightly concerned about the impact of the use of this drug on antisocial behaviour and the risks to those who consume it.
“We have led calls for a review of nitrous oxide and cautiously welcome the report from the ACMD. However, we are concerned that it does not go far enough. In response to similar concerns, the Dutch government has banned the purchase as well as the sale of nitrous oxide for non-legitimate use, and we would urge the Home Secretary to consider the Dutch experience alongside the ACMD’s advice.
“Whilst the police and courts have the powers to crack down on those who supply nitrous oxide to children and young people in the UK, the criminal penalties for supplying of this drug for non-legitimate use under the Psychiatric Substances Act are rarely used and we will be seeking reassurance that the law will be properly enforced going forward, as the ACMD argues.
“We also welcome the ACMD’s call for a crackdown on sales direct to consumers of nitrous oxide and online sales and for better information and education about the harms it can cause.
“As Police and Crime Commissioners we fully support the need for improved research and monitoring on the use of this drug and are calling on public health teams to work with policing and the community sectors to discuss how they can address the availability and use of nitrous oxide in their local areas. The law on nitrous oxide needs to be kept under review as we learn more about its effects and impact.
“The report also acknowledges that nitrous oxide appears to be a factor in some serious road traffic accidents and we welcome the recommendation for the Home Office and Department of Transport to explore how it can be added to drug driving protocols, but, with evidence from Holland linking nitrous oxide with 1,800 accidents over 3 years, we must stress, this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency if we are to prevent needless deaths and serious injury on our roads.”