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HOT TOPICS: Alcoholism  Addiction  AA  Cocaine  Heroin

"Hippy Crack" Sweeps the UK

More young adults are using laughing gas to get high, says a new report.


You could die of laughter. Photo via

By May Wilkerson


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Laughing gas is no joke. More than 6% of young adults in England and Wales have used the legal substance—dubbed "hippy crack"—to get high in the last year, according to a new government crime survey. Better known as laughing gas, the legal substance is inhaled from canisters or balloons to induce feelings of relaxation and euphoria—and to cause "raucous laughter." It is reportedly popular on the club and festival circuit, and among celebrities like Prince Harry—who was seen indulging two years ago. But experts warn the seemingly harmless substance can cause suffocation and even be fatal. "Nitrous oxide is a legal substance which has a number of legitimate medical and industrial uses but any suggestion of abuse, particularly by young people is of concern," says a government spokesman. "Like all drugs there are health risks and nitrous oxide should not be experimented with." Earlier this year, Minister Jeremy Browne wrote to festival organizers asking that they take steps to ban the substance. But despite the rising use of hippy crack, the report shows that overall drug use in England and Wales is at a record low: Around 8.2% of 16 to 59-year-olds had used an illicit drug in the last year, compared with 11.1% in 1996, which Browne calls "really positive news."

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