Laughing gas is the third safest drug according to the British public – and 22% of under-40s have tried it

A number of newspapers have been horrified recently by stories of celebrities using laughing gas or, as they call it, ‘hippy crack’. Several Premier League footballers, including Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling, and various TV personalities have been photographed inhaling the legal high out of balloons, often beneath headlines describing the behaviour as ‘shameful’.

But new YouGov research reveals that British people see laughing gas as relatively safe, and many have used it.

22% of under-40s and 14% of over-40s have inhaled laughing gas from a balloon, while it is seen as safe by 22%, putting it just behind cannabis (28%) and alcohol (48%). 35% of under-40s see laughing gas as safe compared to 15% of over-40s.

Magic mushrooms are seen as the fourth safest drug, with a safe score of net -67, and tobacco the fifth safest (net -71).

The poll suggests the media’s choice of wording in calling the drug ‘hippy crack’ may be spreading extra concern, as many (46%) don’t know what the term refers to and 32% think it refers to drugs that many see as more dangerous than laughing gas. 18% correctly identify the reference as laughing gas, but 15% think it is LSD (net -82 safety) and 13% think it is crack cocaine (cocaine has a net safety score of -87).

The gas, known scientifically as nitrous oxide, is legitimately used in dental procedures and childbirth for pain relief, however there is concern that its recreational use – which involves repeatedly inhaling from a balloon – can lead to oxygen deprivation and loss of blood pressure. The gas was first synthesised in 1772, and was used recreationally for almost 200 years before beginning its life as an anaesthetic in the mid-19th Century. 

See the full poll results

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