How CAN you get addicted to hippy crack? Science explained after Trisha Goddard’s daughter says it was ‘more addictive than any other drug I’d known’

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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If asked to name an addictive drug, nitrous oxide probably wouldn’t be on the tip of your tongue.

After all, doctors say the substance — otherwise known as hippy crack — possesses no physical addictive properties. 

In stark contrast, nicotine delivers an immediate mood-boost strong enough to coax smokers into craving another cigarette, leaving them hooked for life. 

Opioids like heroin and alcohol work in similar fashion.

But when it comes to nitrous oxide, sometimes called laughing gas or nos, and sold in little silver cannisters that litter the streets, former users have described it as ‘more addictive than cocaine’. 

When it comes to nitrous oxide, sometimes called laughing gas or nos, and sold in little silver cannisters that litter the streets, former users have described it as ‘more addictive than cocaine’. TV star Trisha Goddard ‘s daughter Billie Dee strikingly called it ‘more addictive than any other drug I’d known’. Pictured, Billie, with her mum, TV presenter Trisha Goddard

TV star Trisha Goddard’s daughter Billie Dee strikingly called it ‘more addictive than any other drug I’d known’.

‘I’d take more and more to feel that high again,’ she said. ‘It’s more addictive than any other drug I’d known and I was taking one after the other after the other, sometimes doubling up with two canisters in one balloon. 

‘I’d spend all weekend in the flat, easily getting through 500 in two days.

‘I wasn’t looking after myself, not eating properly and even forgetting to drink water some days. I didn’t even have the cognitive function to answer my phone.’

Ellen Mercer’s tragic passing shone a spotlight onto the drug’s addictive nature this week.

The 24-year-old’s abuse of hippy crack was partly blamed for her death.

The business student, from Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, was ordering up to three bottles of the substance per day.

Laguna Treatment Hospital, a rehab centre in California, explains how hippy crack can trigger alcohol-esque dependency.

It says: ‘The gases do not have any properties that make them physically addictive.

‘Therefore, people who stop using nitrous oxide will not have any physical symptoms of withdrawal, such as nausea, abdominal cramping, or diarrhea. 

‘However, the person may experience psychological dependency.’

This means the individual ‘will repeatedly want to use the drug to achieve the high’, the addiction clinic adds. 

Users seek it out as a ‘cheap’ way to have a brief euphoric high. 

Typically inhaled via a balloon, it can cause a tingling sensation in the arms and legs and even numbness in the body. 

Such effects can be desirable, in some people.

As such, Laguna Treatment Hospital adds: ‘An individual may experience agitation as a result of not having the nitrous oxide and may go to extremes to obtain it.’

Studies have suggested users who develop a tolerance to nitrous oxide and become used to its behavioural effects may later need larger amounts of the gas to enjoy the same high. 

Ellen Mercer's (pictured) tragic passing shone a spotlight onto the drug's addictive nature this week. The 24-year-old's abuse of hippy crack was partly blamed for her death. The business student, from Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, was ordering up to three bottles of the substance per day

Ellen Mercer’s (pictured) tragic passing shone a spotlight onto the drug’s addictive nature this week. The 24-year-old’s abuse of hippy crack was partly blamed for her death. The business student, from Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, was ordering up to three bottles of the substance per day 

Users seek nitrous oxide out as a 'cheap' way to have a brief euphoric high. Typically inhaled via a balloon, it can cause a tingling sensation in the arms and legs and even numbness in the body. Such effects can be desirable, in some people

Users seek nitrous oxide out as a ‘cheap’ way to have a brief euphoric high. Typically inhaled via a balloon, it can cause a tingling sensation in the arms and legs and even numbness in the body. Such effects can be desirable, in some people 

Experts advise addiction to nitrous oxide be treated in a similar manner to other drugs that cause psychological dependency.

Some clinicians recommend the medication lamotrigine, often used to treat epilepsy and stabilize mood in bipolar disorder, to help patients reduce cravings.

Others suggest drug counselling or visiting an addiction therapist to help develop healthy coping mechanisms and help change behaviors and thoughts associated with the drug.

The drug rose to modern notoriety in the early 2010s with balloon-wielding dealers cashing in on demand, partly fuelled by a glamorous array of celebs and footballers posting images of themselves apparently using it.

Even Prince Harry was seen indulging in nitrous oxide once at a charity fancy-dress party party in 2010 in the capital. 

But usage rates have halved in the wake of the pandemic, official figures suggest. It follows a spate of deaths linked to the substance.  

As well as deaths, serious side effects including dizziness, weakness in the legs and impaired memory are thought to have discouraged today’s kids from experimenting with nitrous oxide. 

Having too much nitrous oxide can also make users faint or suffocate due to a lack of oxygen to the brain if they inhale highly concentrated forms of the gas.

Under Rishi Sunak’s ambitious plan to tackle the blight of anti-social behaviour, nos was last year made a Class C drug, alongside the so-called ‘date rape’ drug GHB, anabolic steroids and the stimulant khat.

Under current laws, those in possession of Class C drugs face an unlimited fine, community service, a caution – which would appear on their criminal record – or a possible two-year sentence for serious habitual users. 

Dealers of nitrous oxide could also face up to 14 years in jail.   

The colourless gas has been used as pain relief in medical settings such as dentistry and maternity care for nearly 180 years. 

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