Increasing illicit use of nitrous oxide in presentations to NSW emergency departments

Anna Bethmont, Claire E Harper, Betty SH Chan, Andrew H Dawson and Jeremy McAnulty
Med J Aust 2019; 211 (9): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50377
Published online: 4 November 2019

To the Editor: Recreational use of nitrous oxide is increasing among regular drug users in Australia1 and internationally.2 In a New South Wales survey of participants who had used ecstasy or other stimulants in the past 6 months, 75% of respondents reported recent use of nitrous oxide in 2018, up from 20% in 2013.3 Nitrous oxide use while bingeing on stimulants rose from 4% of respondents in 2013 to 16% in 2017.4,5 Access to nitrous oxide has been facilitated by businesses offering 24/7 delivery of large quantities of canisters, ostensibly for whipping cream.6

  • 1 Health Protection NSW, NSW Health, Sydney, NSW
  • 2 Ministry of Health New South Wales, Sydney, NSW
  • 3 Prince of Wales Hospital and Community Health Services, Sydney, NSW
  • 4 Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, NSW
  • 5 NSW Poisons Information Service, Sydney, NSW


We thank the Rapid Surveillance, Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, NSW Ministry of Health, for their assistance in extracting and analysing the ED data.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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