The Sunday Times Magazine shone a spotlight on student party culture with a feature piece in its March 3 edition on the use of nitrous oxide—laughing gas.
Reporting from the front lines of ... wait for it ... Redland, Bristol, the magazine describes how students at house parties buy canisters of "nos" to inflate balloons, then inhale the gas to "enjoy 30 seconds of giggles and silliness".
Sales of the gas can run to hundreds of pounds at parties, the article says.
Selling nitrous oxide for human consumption is illegal under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. Although inhaling two or three balloons' worth may be low risk, over-indulgence can have serious consequences, the article reports.
A Leicestershire Police page, found via Google, says: "The gas can cause dizziness and therefore impair your judgement—putting you at risk. When laughing gas is inhaled, it removes the oxygen from your lungs and replaces it with nitrous oxide; this can cause unconsciousness or death due to a lack of oxygen. Mixing alcohol with nitrous oxide can be fatal."
The article provides some revealing details about the level of organisation evident at some student parties:
" ... There’s a security guard on the door, diligently checking names. In the front room there are DJ decks, a decent sound system and a small lighting rig. The carpets are covered in protective plastic sheeting. ... I head upstairs, and there comes a bigger surprise. A long queue of about 25 people has formed on the landing. When I eventually reach the front, there are two students sitting behind a trestle table. Underneath are hundreds of canisters of nitrous oxide, all available for sale. On the table is a chip-and-Pin machine connected to an iPhone. Payment is by card only. ...”
It also quotes a student saying: "Every house party you go to, there is always a nos bar ... It’s a way of covering the expenses of having a party. By th
e time you’ve paid for DJs, speakers, decor and everything, the costs rack up. When we had a house party, we made it all back on nos."
The full article is available on the Sunday Times site. Free registration is required to read it.