Bristol drugs survey shows rise in laughing gas use

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A survey has shown a rise in the use of ketamine and laughing gas in Bristol, according to Safer Bristol.

The findings will be used to tailor education and support services to better meet the needs of drug users.

Maggie Telfer, from Bristol Drugs Project, said: "People believe laughing gas is legal and is therefore safe, but it can definitely be very risky."

The three-month study, which was conducted online, also revealed a drop in the use of heroin and crack cocaine.

'Giggly' effect

The study targeted people who had not been in contact with any drugs support services in the city and showed that 18-24-year-olds were the most likely age group to use nitrous oxide [laughing gas].

It found the highest number of people, 156, had started using nitrous oxide in the past 12 months.

This was followed by:

  • Ketamine - 110
  • Ecstasy/MDMA - 105
  • Mephedrone - 97

Drug users were also asked which substances they had used for longer than five years.

The most common drugs used were:

  • Alcohol - 528 people
  • Cannabis - 258
  • Cocaine - 142
  • Ecstasy - 175

Substances like ketamine and nitrous oxide were used for this length of time by fewer than 80 people.

Ms Telfer said laughing gas "will make people giggly and light-headed for a while and people use it because they obviously like that effect".

She added: "The risk with it, if people are doing that on their own, they're taking it in a dangerous situation and can injure themselves and there's no-one around to get help if needed."

The information will be used by members of the Safer Bristol partnership, such as NHS Bristol, Avon and Somerset Police, Probation Services and Bristol City Council.

Councillor Gary Hopkins, a member of the Safer Bristol Board, said: "People who use the 'traditional drugs', like crack and heroin, know what the service is, they know what sort of support is available and we've been pretty successful in reducing harm there and getting some people off those drugs.

"We're making progress but a number of people who use these new substances suddenly realise they have a problem.

"They don't know if any sort of service in the system is available to help get them off the drug and that's a key part of the work we're doing."

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