Safer Using – Nangs

About Nangs

“Nang” (sometimes also “bulb”, “whippit”, or “whippet”) is a slang term for a whipped cream charger, which is a small metal canister containing nitrous oxide gas (also known as N2O, nitrous, NOS, laughing gas, or hippy crack). Nangs are a popular drug in the night clubbing scene in Australia, the UK, the US and increasingly in Europe.1,2 As a recreational drug, nangs are broken to release the nitrous oxide (often into a balloon) and the gas is inhaled to produce a high lasting around 1-5 minutes, which is sometimes called “nanging”.1-4 The small tip of the canister is broken using a whipped cream dispenser (also called a “nanginator”), or by using a handheld “nang cracker” which releases the gas directly into a balloon.4 Sometimes, people also use large canisters of nitrous oxide, for example by purchasing them online or obtaining them from dentistry or medical suppliers.

Nitrous oxide was first synthesised in 1772. 1 Humphrey Davy, a British chemist, described the effects of inhaling nitrous oxide gas as “a high pleasurable thrilling”, and coined the term “laughing gas”.1  In 1844, an American dentist first used nitrous oxide as an anaesthetic for a dental procedure.1  Nowadays, nitrous oxide is still used as a dental anaesthetic, as well as to relieve labour pains and to ease anxiety in emergency situations.1  It is also used to make whipped cream, hence the wide availability of nitrous oxide-containing whipped cream chargers, which are often sold in supermarkets, convenience or household stores.3,5

The occasional use of nangs coupled with good harm reduction practices (such as having someone else around) is considered relatively unharmful. However, frequent and long-term use can lead to neurotoxicity and other severe complications which is believed to be caused by vitamin B12 deficiency.2 There are also other potential harms associated with nangs, including suffocation and injury. More details regarding the overdose harms and toxicity of nitrous oxide are presented below.  

Nangs Effects

The effects people commonly experience when doing nangs include:3,5

  • Euphoria.
  • Dissociation of mind from body.
  • Reduction in anxiety (anxiolytic).
  • Giggling and laughing.
  • Sedation.
  • Pain relief (analgesia).
  • Sound distortion.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Nausea.
  • Headache.
  • Numbness in extremities.

The effects generally peak around 1 minute after inhalation and last 1-5 minutes in total.1-4

Nangs can lead to loss of motor control. 3 To avoid injury, it is recommended to sit down when doing nangs.4

Nangs Dosing

It is always advisable to start at a low dose and wait before redosing recreational drugs (start low and go slow).

A standard dose of nangs is one or two whipped cream chargers at a time, each containing 8 grams of nitrous oxide.4

The nitrous oxide gas released from nangs is extremely cold, so take care to avoid touching the used canisters and allow the gas to warm up inside a balloon before inhaling.4

Always release the gas into a balloon before inhaling.4 Inhaling nitrous oxide directly from a nanginator can cause damage to the lungs since the gas is extremely cold and is held at high pressures.4 Breathing in and out of the balloon multiple times is not necessary as it does not add to the high and increases the risk of oxygen deprivation.4

Nangs Overdose

Taking very high dose of nangs has the potential to cause a person to lose consciousness.3 Combining nangs with alcohol, GHB, or opioids increases the likelihood of falling unconscious, and there is a high risk of vomit aspiration.6 Mixing nangs with stimulants (e.g. MDMA), dissociatives (e.g., ketamine) or psychedelics (e.g., LSD) can potentiate the effects of both drugs.6  

If someone falls unconscious while doing nangs, check their breathing, and try to wake them up. If they do not respond, move them into the recovery position, and wait with them until they recover. Seek medical attention if they show no improvement after a few minutes, if they breath irregularly or stop breathing, or if you are concerned.  

The greatest immediate risk associated with nangs is oxygen deprivation.1  When taking a standard dose of nangs in a well-ventilated space, the small degree of oxygen deprivation is tolerated well by most healthy people.1  However, people with epilepsy, heart disease or other diseases are more sensitive to oxygen deprivation, and are at a greater risk of seizures, abnormal heart rhythms or even cardiac arrest.1  

Nitrous oxide is extremely dangerous when taken alone and/or in an enclosed space, such as in a car or by wearing a mask attached to a supply of nitrous oxide.1  People have died from repeatedly taking nangs in an enclosed space.1,7 Nangs should always be done in a well-ventilated area or outside, and ideally in the presence of someone else.

Nangs Toxicity

Occasional use of nangs (and using less than ten nangs in a single session) is considered relatively unharmful when done in a well-ventilated space with other people present.2 In the short-term, nangs can cause lung irritation, especially if the nitrous oxide is inhaled directly from a whipped cream dispenser.1,4 Frequently using a large quantity of nangs can lead to neurotoxicity, with symptoms including:1,2

  • Abnormal sensations in the skin, usually in the arms and legs (paresthesia).
  • Difficulty walking (unsteady gait).
  • Weakness in limbs.
  • Impaired movement or sensation in the legs (paraplegia).
  • Numbness.
  • Dizziness and trouble balancing (vestibular problems).
  • Difficulties with memory and learning.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Confusion.
  • Anxiety, depression, or mania.
  • Changes to skin pigmentation.

Issues with sensation usually start in the feet and can progressively affect the hands.1

Adolescents may also experience:1

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Constipation.
  • Trouble urinating (dysuria).
  • Involuntary movements.

Rarely, long-term nang use may also lead to more serious complications such as:1,8,9

  • Blood clots (thrombosis or embolism).
  • Heart attack.
  • Stroke.
  • Inflamed pancreas (pancreatitis).

Most of these symptoms are believed to be associated with vitamin B12 deficiency.1,2 Nitrous oxide inactivates vitamin B12 in the body, leading to a deficiency when it is used frequently.1,2 Vitamin B12 is essential for many bodily processes, and a deficiency can cause the degeneration of the protective barrier surrounding nerves (demyelination) and defects in red blood cells (anemia).1

Symptoms can go away when a person stops using nangs and their vitamin B12 levels return to normal, for example after receiving a vitamin B12 infusion from a doctor.1,2 However, some people continue to experience symptoms long-term.1,2 Taking vitamin B12 supplements can reduce some of the symptoms, but it is not enough to prevent long-term toxicity from frequent nang use.1,2,10

If you are concerned or are experiencing the above symptoms, consider speaking to a non-judgemental health professional, such as at the CAHMA clinic.












Written by Darcy Lynch

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