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Nitrous Oxide, broken down and described


"N/A - depends on method of consumption"

Total duration : 1 - 5 minutes
Onset : 0 - 1 minutes
Coming : Up 15 - 30 seconds
Peak : 1 - 5 minutes
Coming down : 10 minutes
After effects : 15 - 30 minutes

Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gasnitrousnitroNOS or hippy crack is an inorganic molecule and chemical compound with the formula N 2O. It is an oxide of nitrogen. At room temperature, it is a colourless, non-flammable gas, with a slightly sweet odour and taste. It is used in surgery and dentistry for its anaesthetic and analgesic effects. It is known as “laughing gas” due to the euphoric effects of inhaling it, a property that has led to its recreational use as an A-typical dissociative anaesthetic. It is also used as an oxidizer in rocketry and in motor racing to increase the power output of engines. At elevated temperatures, nitrous oxide is a powerful oxidizer similar to molecular oxygen.

The gas was first synthesised by English natural philosopher and chemist Joseph Priestley in 1772, who called it phlogisticated nitrous air (see phlogiston). It was first used as an anaesthetic drug in the treatment of a patient when dentist Horace Wells demonstrated insensitivity to pain from a dental extraction on 11 December 1844. Today it is used world wide by hospitals and dentists alike as a general anaesthetic. The recreational use of nitrous oxide began at “laughing gas parties”, primarily arranged for the British upper class in 1799 and has continued into modern times as the gas has become cheaper and more accessible to the masses.

The pharmacological mechanism of action of N2O in medicine is not fully known. However, it has been shown to directly modulate a broad range of receptors, and this likely plays a major role in many of its effects. It moderately blocks NMDA and β2-subunit-containing nACh channels, weakly inhibits AMPA, kainate, GABAC, and 5-HT3 receptors, and slightly potentiates GABAA and glycine receptors. It has also been shown to activate two-pore-domain K+ channels. While N2O affects quite a few ion channels, its anaesthetic, hallucinogenic, and euphoriant effects are likely caused predominantly or fully via inhibition of NMDAR-mediated currents.

The Nitrous Oxide experience contains a complex and wide array of effects which based on the predefined potential subjective effects index found here, I will now begin to breakdown and describe.

Subjective effects:

Physical effects

The physical effects of Nitrous Oxide can be broken down into eight components all of which progressively intensify proportional to dosage.

  • Spontaneous tactile sensations - the nitrous oxide body high starts off as the sensation of a mixture of cold, warm, sharp and soft tingles which begin across the head and face at lower dosages but spread out across the body at higher dosages.
  • Suppression of touch - this partially to entirely suppresses ones own sense of touch creating feelings of numbness within the extremities. It is responsible for the anaesthetic properties of this substance.
  • Loss of motor control - a loss of gross and fine motor control along side of balance and coordination is prevalent within nitrous and becomes especially strong at higher dosages. This means that one should be sitting down before the onset unless they are experienced in case of falling over and injuring oneself.
  • Euphoria - this results in feelings of physical euphoria which range between mild pleasure to powerfully all encompassing bliss. Anecdotal reports show that this sensation which is taken advantage of by recreational users during sexual activity’s and said to greatly enhance orgasm.
  • Changes in felt bodily form - this usually occurs with higher dosages and can be described as feelings that in a non painful fashion your body’s physical form is being stretched into infinity, compressed into a singularity or split into two separate halves.
  • Weightlessness - this creates the sensation that body is floating and has become entirely weightless. It is often accompanied by feelings of slowly falling or drifting.
  • Dizziness - although uncommon some people report dizziness under the influence of nitrous.
  • Head aches - although uncommon a certain subset of people report headaches during the offset of Nitrous Oxide. If this occurs one should avoid this substance in the future.

Cognitive effects:

The cognitive effects of nitrous oxide can be broken down into 4 separate subcomponents which are listed and described below.

  • Laughter - this effect is extremely powerful and pronounced within nitrous oxide and can be described as sudden bouts of intense laughter and giggling. It is an effect which is especially prevalent when taken in the context of appropriate social settings.
  • Euphoria - this can be described as feelings of mild to intense happiness and general positivity.
  • Ego suppression, loss and death - at higher dosages, level 3 ego death is an all encompassing effect within nitrous oxide. In comparison to other hallucinogens, it is unique in style due to its rapid onset and fast comedown. This creates the experience that one’s sense of self is rapidly disintegrated and then suddenly restacked through a process of regaining one’s own long term memory. This is a remarkably identical process every time the experience is undergone.
  • Deja-vu - although uncommon a certain subset of people report strong feelings of deja-vu consistently when under the influence of Nitrous Oxide.
  • Amnesia - at high dosages, it is often common for one to experience amnesia and memory loss after the experience has occurred. This is especially prevalent alongside of ego death.
  • States of unity and interconnectedness - during high dosage states of ego death, this component is a common but inconsistent accompanying effect. It generally occurs at level 4 - 5 and creates experiences of becoming one with the greater whole. In comparison to other hallucinogens which induce this effect, it can be described as comparatively simpler and less profound due to its more basic accompanying cognitive effects.

Visual effects:

In comparison to other dissociatives such as Ketamine or DXM, the visual effects of nitrous oxide are comparatively simplistic. They progressively intensify proportional to dosage and can be broken down into five individual components which are listed and described below.

  • Decreased visual acuity - blurred vision to the point of all encompassing blindness is a completely consistent effect within nitrous oxide even at moderate dosages.
  • Double vision - this component is also prevalent at moderate dosages and makes reading incapable unless one closes an eye.
  • Suppression of pattern recognition - this effect generally occurs at higher dosages and makes one unable to recognize and interpret perceivable visual data.
  • Geometry - nitrous oxide geometry can be described as unique in its behaviour. It usually only occurs at higher dosages and as a static wall of geometry which appears in front of one’s vision alongside of the physical sensation of becoming and merging with it. It usually manifests as consistently incidental in its form but varies in its arrangement between people. In terms of its stylistic appearance it can be described as simplistic in complexity, organic in style, unstructured in arrangement, colourful in scheme, glossy in shading, soft and blurred in its edges, large in size, still in movement, rounded in corners, immersive in depth, and often based upon complex interlocking circles.
  • Hallucinatory states - in comparison to other more classical dissociatives, hallucinations are particularly rare with nitrous but possible at high dosages. They exclusively occur at high levels, are capable of manifesting as both external and internal in style, and are usually delirious in believability (but commonly only include mundane scenarios such as perceiving and talking to people who are not currently present).

Auditory effects:

The auditory effects found with nitrous oxide, although simplistic, are famously known to be particularly intense and consistent in their manifestation when compared to other hallucinogens. These effects include:

  • Distortions - these distortions are very powerful and loud enough in their volume to make the original sound completely unrecognisable. They include phasers, white noise, high pitch tones and notes, flanging, changes in pitch, echo effects, and stuttering.
  • Suppression - this effect can be described as a muffling and quieting of externally sourced sound which results in it sounding more indistinct and distant than it would usually be.

In combination with:

One of the most interesting application for nitrous oxide is not by itself but in combination with other hallucinogens to which it acts as a powerful and profound temporary potentiation of subjective effects.

  • Psychedelics - when taken in combination with a classical psychedelic such as LSD or psilocin, the effect will be a sudden and dramatic increase in perceived geometry to its maximum level of 7A or 7B. This is alongside of a sudden and dramatic ego death.
  • Dissociatives - when taken in combination with a classical dissociative such as MXE or DXM, the effect will be a sudden and dramatic increase in disconnective effects and the triggering of a sudden internal hallucinatory scenario.
  • Cannabis - when taken in combination with cannabis, the overall effects of the nitrous itself are potentiated more so than the effects of the cannabis.
  • Alcohol - when taken in combination with alcohol, negative side effects such as confusion, dizziness, and headaches are often greatly increased.

Available forms:

  • Canned whipped cream - these are found in any grocery store. They contain very minimal gas with one or two uses before the cream comes out.
  • Chargers - these are freely available and cheap to purchase online. They are small metal canisters which can be used by a nitrous cracker to fill a balloon full of gas which is then inhaled. Some varieties contain industrial residue and strength varies (as it is food grade).
  • Medical tanks - these are hard to find and dangerous without a professional. They are occasionally seen at music festivals being used to fill balloons for sale.

Toxicity and Harm Potential:

Nitrous oxide has been safely used as a mild anaesthetic for over 150 years. Problems with its use come primarily from carelessness. Potential problems include:

  • Brain injury and suffocation can result from lack of oxygen. When used as an anaesthetic, nitrous is always administered in combination with oxygen. Never use nitrous in any manner that does not provide for adequate oxygen intake.
  • Very cold temperatures of the gas can freeze the lips and throat if taken directly from a tank or whippit. Releasing the gas into a balloon first allows the gas to warm before being administered.
  • Heavy and frequent long term nitrous use can deplete vitamin B12 in the body and lead to serious and unpleasant neurological problems. Users may experience numbness and tingling in the fingers, toes, lips, etc. In more severe cases, there will be numbness of all extremeties. Taking B12 supplements, especially in combination with a multivitamin and complete amino acid supplements, may help alleviate this problem. If you experience these symptoms, cease nitrous use immediately and if the symptoms persist, seek medical attention.
  • Nitric oxide, a toxic industrial gas, is occasionally mistaken for nitrous oxide. Users should be careful they know what they are inhaling. Inhaling Nitric Oxide can permanently damage the lungs or kill.

Legal issues:

  • United states - possession of nitrous oxide is legal under federal law and is not subject to DEA purview. It is, however, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration under the Food Drug and Cosmetics Act. Prosecution is possible under its “misbranding” clauses, prohibiting the sale or distribution of nitrous oxide for the purpose of human consumption. Many states have laws regulating the possession, sale, and distribution of nitrous oxide. Such laws usually ban distribution to minors or limit the amount of nitrous oxide that may be sold without special license. For example, in the state of California possession for recreational use is prohibited and qualifies as a misdemeanour.
  • New Zealand - the Ministry of Health has warned that nitrous oxide is a prescription medicine, and its sale or possession without a prescription is an offence under the Medicines Act. This statement would seemingly prohibit all non-medicinal uses of the chemical, though it is implied that only recreational use will be legally targeted.
  • India - for general anaesthesia purposes, nitrous oxide is available as Nitrous Oxide IP. India’s gas cylinder rules (1985) permit the transfer of gas from one cylinder to another for breathing purposes. 


In conclusion, although short lived nitrous oxide is an extremely fascinating and worthwhile substance. It is best used in combination with other substances to experience the full effects and is a worthwhile substance for anybody who is interested in the exploration of consciousness.

Click here for a more comprehensive breakdown.

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    I just had this at the dentist on Monday.
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