What Is Hippy Crack?
Hippy Crack or Nitrous Oxide (also known as laughing gas) is one of the most recent drugs to be ruled as illegal under the Psychoactive Substances Act.
The end of 2017 saw hundreds of people arrested and 50 dealers prosecuted, some of who were jailed.
Originally synthesised in 1772, it had been used for centuries as a painkiller by dentists and doctors, sometimes used during childbirth.
However, more recently, party and festival goers have become more interested in its euphoric effects.
Nitrous Oxide canisters, from which gas is pumped into balloons before being inhaled, litter festival sites and town and city centre pavements all over the UK.
Negative Side Effects of Hippy Crack
- Difficulty in thinking clearly
- Extreme headaches
Risks of Hippy Crack
Nitrous oxide can cause dizziness or affect your judgement, which might make you act carelessly or dangerously and put you at risk of hurting yourself, particularly in an unsafe environment.
Unconsciousness or death from lack of oxygen. This occurs when the available oxygen for breathing is effectively pushed out by the nitrous oxide. The risk is greater if the gas is consumed in an enclosed space or if a plastic bag is used that covers both nose and mouth.
Heavy regular use of nitrous oxide can lead to deficiency of vitamin B12 and to a form of anaemia.
Mixing nitrous oxide with alcohol is especially dangerous as it can increase the risks associated with both substances and can lead to an increased risk of accidents or death
Why is it called Hippy Crack?
Hippy Crack is one of the street names for Nitrous Oxide N20 a gas that can be inhaled by a variety of means by the person consuming it. The most common way is through a balloon that has been filled by a small canister of the gas.
The term Hippy Crack originates from a relaxed vibe and unserious type of drug use. Apparently preferred by ‘soft’ drug users such as those who use cannabis or go to parties and not in the media portrayed origin of a ‘hardened addict.’
However, the ‘vibe’ of Hippy Crack is mis-leading as the use of this can cause serious harm and/or death to the user.
Currently the preferred name amongst teenagers using the drug is Balloons. This substance can be bought cheaply and with apparent ease over the internet along with the paraphernalia required to ‘crack’ or ‘whip’ the pressurised gas canisters open.
As it is a gas the only way it can be stored is in a pressurised container.
How big a problem is Nitrous Oxide in the UK?
Some may believe this is a new trend or new use of a drug however Hippy Crack can be traced back to the 1800s.
It was known in the 1800s as ‘laughing gas’ as parties were thrown by the English elite and the participants after inhaling the gas would lie about laughing?
In this early era a dentist trialled the drug for dentistry pain and found it created more of a mild anaesthetic and relaxed sensation for patients. N20 was introduced into Dentistry from this point forward.
N20 has been in operation since the 1800s it is not a new substance. Currently it is used in dentistry, medicine, cream canisters, rockets and car engines to name a few.
However, it has gained recent media attention as the new party drug and is also being used in combination with other drugs such as GHB/GBL in Chem Sex Parties popular amongst same sex partners.
The magnitude of the problem is unknown due to the underground nature of drug use however this and other drugs have been causing many harms and have now been included in the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.
As with Hippy Crack and many other Legal Highs their purchasing is relatively easy due to internet accessibility. The items used to partake of the substance are part of mainstream society i.e. balloons and catering equipment.
When evaluating the scale of the problem the incidence of small metal canisters found in large quantities in areas teenagers frequent, outside bars/nightclubs or after festivals indicates the scale of the problem in the UK is large.
As it is difficult to quantify the extent of the problem the Global Drugs Survey (2013-2014) stated Hippy Crack was the 14th most used drug globally.
With the Home Office Drugs Misuse Data (2013-2014) indicating 7.6%- or 16-24-year olds in England and Wales had tried the drug.
How is Nitrous Oxide being abused?
This substance with its many names such as Happy Gas, NOZ, Laughing Gas, Nangs, Sweet Air and Balloons. Known as street names these names are given to the drug by groups of users to identify the substance.
In some cases, to confuse non-users as only those who use it will identify with the term.
Hippy Crack is also known as Happy Gas as the gas dulls all five human senses. The reduction of these senses relaxes the person using the drug creating a short-term feeling of euphoria.
NB – Hippy Crack may affect different people in different ways. There are lots of different reasons for this. Such as:
- Mental Health presentation at time of use
- Physical Health problems
- If alcohol has been consumed prior to use
- If and what other drugs have been consumed prior to use
Calling Hippy Crack, Laughing Gas or Happy Gas is misleading and creates an illusion that the inhalation of N20 will automatically create ‘happy’ feelings. And somehow implies it is a drug for party goers and is not as ‘heavy’ or addictive as other more mainstream narcotics.
However, there can be adverse mental and physical health problems to the user.
NB: The scale of Legal Highs such as Hippy Crack affecting users long term mental health is yet to be documented.
How is Nitrous Oxide used legally?
N2O Is being abused as it was not created to be inhaled by humans recreationally it was created then adapted to be placed within ‘squirty cream’ canisters, propel specialised car engines and in medicine or dentistry.
The term Whip-It has been given to the canister’s caterers place cream in. Once the N20 canister is inserted the gas whips the cream up and squirts it out fluffy and light, in short it turns liquid cream into fluffy or solid cream which can be placed on desserts etc.
The term Whip-it is also given to any method of opening the small metal canister known as a Cream Charger in the catering industry. These are legal in the catering industry.
Adding N20 to car engines is legal if the car insurance company is notified of the modification.
Medical N20 is legal if used by medical professionals as an anaesthetic during surgery or by Dentists as a mild form of sedation prior to dental treatment.
There are more forms of legal use of N20 by industry and commerce or hobbies such as rocket building etc.
In short if the gas is being bought to inhale and not used in a commercial, professional or appropriate manner then it is being abused and not used for its intended legal uses.
Cream Chargers if walking around areas that teenagers frequent Cream Chargers may have been spotted.
Unless working in catering or emergency services the walker may have been intrigued as to their existence.
These small silver-coloured canisters actually contained Hippy Crack or N20 and can be found in squirty cream canisters in the catering industry.
The metal canisters narrow at one end and the gas is acquired from here by a variety of methods used to break the seal.
A Whip-it Cracker is one of the street names used for opening the top of the sealed canister, these can be official catering Whip-It canisters (for turning cream into squirty cream), devices bought online for users of Hippy Crack or hand-made adaptations such as bike pumps.
The most common use is to catch the N20 in a balloon before inhaling. In some cases, the ‘cracker’ is left on the end of the balloon to avoid overstretching the balloon or losing N20.
The intention is to get as many uses of the balloon as possible.
The recent legislation in place to try and control the distribution and sale of Cream Chargers for purposes other than catering is called the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. This act gives the police powers to arrest and charge those in suspicion of selling the drug for profit.
Is Nitrous Oxide illegal?
Obviously those in the catering industry that use Cream Canisters for squirty cream are not breaking the law as the canisters were intended to be used in this manner.
Also, if injected into a car engine to achieve higher speeds the product is deemed legal if you notify your Insurance Company of the modification.
When used in Dentistry or the practice of medicine it is also deemed legal as being used as its intended to. Those who use it in Dentistry and Medicine have been highly trained in its usage and generally use small amounts.
The lines are crossed when the product is purchased and sold on for the purposes of drug use as mentioned before the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 gives police powers to arrest those falling under this category.
The Legal High is dangerous and can damage or in some small incidences cause loss of life to the user.
The maximum sentence that can be administered is 7 years for those supplying the gas for inhalation and not professional use.
Although illegal internet sites can still be found to inform users of how to use the substance in safety. There are pro’s and con’s for such information to be freely available to people who choose to use N20. One of which is informing the participant in its dangers if administered incorrectly.
Supply and production of Hippy Gas can come with a maximum 7-year sentence and falls under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 and not the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. A difference between acts is that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 categorises drugs in groups such as A, B or C.
Hippy Crack is not in a category.
Again, this implies the use of Hippy Crack to be a new phenomenon however this is not factual. The drug N20 has just become more popular in younger users and party goers.
Possession is not an illegal act unless found in possession in a custodial establishment such as prison or a young offenders institution.
So why have Legal Highs such as Hippy Crack become more popular?
There may be a variety of different reasons such as:
- The price as they are relatively cheap to buy
- They are easily accessible from the internet
- They are legal unless distributing
- The effects are instantaneous and wear off quickly
- Balloons for example are perceived as fashionable and socially acceptable by teenagers and young adults
- People still want to get high but don’t want criminal records that may occur with illegal drugs
- Young people are not fully aware of the dangers attached to the use of N20 gas
There are many drugs that become ‘on trend’ at various points through the years. Early 90’s saw the rave scene and increased use of MDMA or Ecstasy Tablets. Amphetamine was also popular in the 90s.
These drugs have never gone away their popularity waxes and weans throughout the years.
It is difficult to predict the next generations drug of choice but a point of interest here is –
Have the teenagers gotten the message about illegal drugs being dangerous and subconsciously opted for a legal drug such as Hippy Crack and other psychoactive substances?
Will longitudinal studies that identify the long-term harms of these legal highs deter the next generation?
These questions are yet unanswered.
However, the use of Hippy Crack remains part of present popular culture. Attaching itself to teenagers, young adults and Chem Sex parties.
What does it look like?
N20 is a colourless gas.
How it looks, tastes and smells?
N2O is an odourless, colourless gas. Some users describe the taste to be sweet as well as the smell.
How do people take it?
As the drug is a gas it is held in a pressurised metal cannister which is whipped or cracked open by a Whip-It canister or cracker which can be bought online for the sole purpose of opening Cream Chargers.
Some users adapt their own crackers.
Once opened the canister is quickly distributed into a balloon, the user then inhales the balloon and reseals it holding their breath until the desired effect occurs or they can no longer hold their breath.
The balloon is normally emptied between one and two breaths.
Methods of Inhalation
The preferred and safer method of inhalation is from the balloon if the user was to intake the N20 directly from the canister, they may freeze their oesophagus and damage their vocal cords.
Users are encouraged not to inhale straight from the canister, use a mask or open in a car.
Although not encouraged the Balloon option appears to be the safest means of inhalation.
How it feels?
As with all drugs consumed the more used the stronger the effect. With Happy Crack a few different sensations have been recorded:
- Euphoria – intense and short lived
- Laughing – hence the name ‘laughing gas’
- Auditory and Sensory Distortions or hallucinations
However, these feelings can also turn uncomfortable if the user uses too much N20 or a combination of other drugs/alcohol which create mental and physical disruptions.
Uncomfortable feelings that can arise:
- A foggy mind
How does Nitrous Oxide cause Euphoria?
The feeling of euphoria is due to the release of Dopamine from the brain. These chemical releases the feelings of euphoria and users are keen to chase or repeat this feeling.
Euphoria – an exaggerated feeling of physical and mental well-being.
N20 also relaxes the body senses bringing about a feeling of relaxation hence the use in Dentistry or Medicine.
However, the levels of Dopamine reduce and those inhaling the gas may increase the dosage to chase this sensation of euphoria as with all drugs this will eventually run out.
What does it do?
The gas allows for a temporary escape from reality. The person using the substance alters their sensations, emotions, feelings and perceptions for a short while until the gas wears off.
This question will be answered slightly differently by the many people who consume the gas and there are a variety of reasons why.
- If it is the first time – using the gas for the first time will produce the illusive Dopamine hit many drug users (not just N20) chase, the ultimate buzz
- If the participant has been drinking alcohol before use
- If the participant has used a drug or drugs before use.
- If the other drug is of a psychoactive nature, an upper or a downer
- If the participant has eaten before consuming the gas
- Prescribed medications
- Mental or physical health problems
- If the participant has been using N20 for a considerable amount of time.
There are a few different factors which affect the duration such as:
- Amount consumed – size of breath, size of balloon
- If new to the drug
- If been using N20 for a considerable amount of time
- Whether the action is repeated whilst still in a higher state from the first inhalation
However, with all that said the effect of the gas is short lived and wears off quickly. Some users will empty the full balloon with one or two breaths others take shorter breaths to prolong the sensation the gas delivers.
Is it Dangerous to mix with other drugs?
Yes, N20 is dangerous to mix with other drugs. This drug and other drugs affect the body in different ways.
Take opiates for example they have some of the same responses as N20. As opiates dull the sensations, can create a relaxed feeling throughout the body and early on in use can create feelings of euphoria.
Opiates slow the breathing therefore taking N20 with Opiates can place pressure on the respiratory system and accidents can occur as the senses that keep a person safe are dampened.
With alcohol inhibitions are already lowered as the alcohol enters the bloodstream and using N20 can further lower the senses again accidents can occur.
In amphetamines the heart rate has been increased using a legal high such as Hippy Crack on top of amphetamine can create paranoia and headaches to name a few side-effects. As the user is in an altered state of reality with an increased heart rate.
In short using any other drug with N20 (including some prescription medications) can be dangerous for the user as they will have no idea how the body will react with various substances in the bloodstream, altering the senses and increasing/decreasing the heart rate.
Health Concerns – Physical and Mental Health Risks
The human body is comprised of two main important gases for sustaining daily living such as Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide.
N20 is not required by the body to sustain daily living therefore it is a foreign object entering the body through means of inhalation and this act alone can damage the lungs, normal brain function and mental health of the inhaler.
If mixed with other drugs or alcohol unknown chemical reactions can occur with the body and heart attack or stroke for example may occur.
The inhaler may also be left with mental health problems if psychosis occurs or dopamine levels are depleted. This can result in depression, anxiety, stress and paranoia.
Those using the gas have also been known to become temporarily paralysed. Prolonged and persistent use can bring about a depletion in B12 which can be attributed to nerve damage, tingling sensations in the body and peripheral numbness.
A recent newspaper article reported a young mum losing the ability to feed her children for 9 months as she was paralysed due to her use of Hippy Crack.
Users of N20 are to be cautious when using the gas and it is recommended they never place a bag over their head or use the substance in a confined area. This will reduce the bodies chance to intake O2 and recover from the inhalation.
Using under these circumstances can cause suffocating or fainting due in some extreme cases for the lack of 02.
Can you get addicted?
In the case of Hippy Crack addiction is completely subjective. If the person taking the gas indicates they are craving more and feeling irritated prior to use then support is required to stop and stay stopped.
They may feel personally addicted to N20 a large component of addiction is the incidence of physical withdrawals without the substance that has created a chemical dependence.
However, an equally large and relevant area of addiction is the psychological need to consume more of a chosen substance.
If the use of N20 has become a problem Abbeycare can help.
What to do if you’re worried about using Nitrous Oxide?
Seek help, there are many information posts about Hippy Crack that may support the user of N20.
If you feel you can’t beat the habit on your own Abbeycare can help.
Abbeycare is a research led facility that utilises the best levels of care and support when delivering a rehab programme.
Recovery is possible for anybody from any background or walk or life.
If you visualise yourself free from alcohol and drugs living a happy and productive life?
And wish to learn more about our Recovery Treatment or how to stop using Hippy Crack call our free 24/7 Helpline on 01603 513 091 or fill out the form below to speak to a trained recovery counsellor.
Hippy Crack a powerful Gas called Nitrous Oxide N2O designed for catering, medicine, mechanical and industry uses.
And not designed to be inhaled into the human bloodstream. The gas has become part of mainstream society with it use through Balloons increasing amongst the younger generation on the party scene.
With all drugs both physical and mental dependence can occur, and professional support is required. Abbeycare can provide a safe and secure place to rehabilitate from the misuse of Nitrous Oxide NO2 street name Hippy Crack or Balloons.