Everything you need to know about nangs, the worrying craze growing amongst Aussie teens.

As each year passes I hear more and more new words being used by young people which leave me bewildered. Sometimes I think this ignorance is a blessing but with two children of my own, being aware of what young people are saying and doing is a responsibility inherent with the role of being a parent.

When I heard someone talking about ‘nangs’ recently, this was another one of those times where I shrugged my shoulders, oblivious to what they were talking about. Although I had no idea, it turns out that ‘nangs’ are something that most teens have heard of, According to respondents to the Global Drug Survey, it is also something which an increasing number of teens are using.

So what is a ‘nang’? It is the street name given to the canister of nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas, used for recreational use.

The Australian Drug Foundation or ADF describes nitrous oxide as “a colourless gas that is commonly used for sedation and pain relief. It is commonly used by dentists and medical professionals to sedate patients undergoing minor medical procedures.”

Now this gas is being used for recreational use. When ‘nangs’, the small canisters of nitrous oxide gas (a propellant for whipping cream) are inhaled they give the user a 20 second ‘high’, as well as brief feelings of euphoria and floating.

Accessing the drug is quite easy. In fact there are businesses set up that offer 24/7 hour delivery of the canisters, you can also purchase 10 canisters for $10 at most supermarkets or bulk amounts can be ordered online; basically anywhere you can buy a canister of whipped cream.

According to the Australian Trends in Ecstasy and Related Drug Markets Survey 2016 ‘nang’ use is on the rise. Around 36 per cent of a sample of people who regularly use ecstasy and related drugs reported using ‘nangs’ in the six months prior to participating in the survey. This has increased ten per cent from the previous year. Victoria reported the highest use in the nation, of 62 per cent.

According to the Global Drugs Survey, ‘nangs’ were the seventh most popular drug choice worldwide, outside of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.

Empty nitrous oxide cannisters. Image: Getty.

Although the drug has a low risk of serious problems when used at a small dose and infrequently, the use of ‘nangs’ for recreational use can be harmful due to the effect of the drug itself if used for prolonged periods of time or, in large amounts.

The ADF lists the following as side effects of the drug:

  • Euphoria
  • Numbness of the body
  • Sedation
  • Giddiness
  • Uncontrolled laughter
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness and/or light-headedness
  • Sweating
  • Feeling unusually tired or weak
  • Sudden death

The effects of ‘nangs’ can be quite serious and in some cases deadly. The effect of the drug was linked to the death of an 18-year-old Sydney teenager last year when he fell of a Gold Coast balcony.

There has also been an increase in young people presenting to hospitals with major medical issues from ‘nangs’, including brain damage.

The ADF states ‘nangs’ can be dangerous “when inhaling directly from tanks or whippets (bulbs), the gas is intensely cold (-40C degrees) and can cause frostbite to the nose, lips and throat (including vocal cords). As the gas is also under constant pressure, it can cause ruptures in lung tissue when inhaled directly from these containers. Releasing the nitrous oxide into a balloon helps to warm the gas and normalise the pressure before inhaling.

People can also harm themselves if they use faulty gas dispensers, which may explode. Dispensing several gas canisters consecutively with one cracker (a handheld device used to ‘crack’ a nitrous oxide bulb/whippet) can also cause cold burns to the hands.”

Red Frogs Founder Andy Gourley shares the advice every parent needs to hear when it comes to schoolies and drinking.

So what can we do as parents? Talking with your teen about the risks and dangers of using ‘nangs’ is a good start. The ADF sets out guidelines that help reduce the risks associated with ‘nangs’, they include:


  • Using it alone or in dangerous or isolated places
  • Putting plastic bags over the head or impeding breathing in any way
  • Spraying near flammable substances, such as naked flames or cigarettes
  • Drinking alcohol or taking other drugs
  • Standing or dancing while inhaling, as the user may pass out

Shona Hendley is a freelance writer from Victoria. An animal lover and advocate, ex secondary school teacher with a morbid fascination for true crime and horror movies, she is busy writing and raising her children: two goats, two cats and two humans. You can follow her on Instagram.

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