A dangerous gas and its canisters, designed for whipping cream and linked to two deaths and hundreds of hospitalisations, is being offered for delivery across Queensland.
- “Nang” is a street name given to a cream charger, a small canister of nitrous oxide
- Nitrous oxide is a common anaesthetic also used in kitchens to whip cream and foams
- If inhaled it can cause brain damage, memory loss, a weakened immune system, and even death
Nangs — also known as nozzies, bulbs, and whippets — are small bulbs that contain nitrous oxide.
The gas in the small canisters is often misused as a recreational drug.
People ingest the dangerous product for a 20-30 second high in which the user may feel euphoric and relaxed.
Multiple businesses that deliver nangs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across Queensland are now advertising on social media.
The alarming trend of home delivery services for the product comes as reports show a sharp increase in drug-related abuse of the canisters.
According to the most recent findings of the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System, nitrous oxide-related presentations in emergency departments have more than tripled in the past 12 months.
One patient had consumed 1,000 nangs over just three days.
Since 2010, there have been two recorded deaths from recreational nitrous oxide use in Australia.
The director of the Poisons Information Centre at Sydney’s Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Andrew Dawson, said cases had risen alarmingly over the years.
“Those effects are severe nerve injury, or sometimes brain injury.”
Worrying side effects
Shonelle Royal is a team leader focusing on alcohol and other drugs for Lives Lived Well, an alcohol and drug treatment service in Queensland.
She said the dangers of inhaling nitrous oxide are not always obvious.
“The main concern is sudden sniffing death syndrome, when someone inhales a violate substance the body can go into shock and can cause fainting, high blood pressure, heart attacks, incontinence, and hypoxia,” Ms Royal said.
“Nitrous oxide is stored at minus 40 degrees Celsius, so when inhaling direct from the bulbs it can cause frostbite to the nose, lips, and throat.”
Ms Royal says that people were more likely to use nangs if they were easily accessible.
“We mainly see young people using inhalants like nitrous oxide because it is cheap and easily available,” she said.
“It’s hugely concerning that they are so accessible 24/7.”
Ease of availability
While the canisters have been freely available to buy in stores for decades, there are now businesses advertising their delivery on social media.
In October 2020, a Night Owl convenience store in Cairns was charged after they sold 17 boxes to an intoxicated man who was then seen inhaling the dangerous gas on the street.
Each box contains 10 cream chargers.
The online store Oz Nangs now advertises 24/7 delivery across Brisbane, Gold Coast, and Cairns, while also advertising for staff in Hobart.
In a post-dated October 7, Oz Nangs announced that they would be giving away 100 cream chargers.
According to Oz Nangs terms and conditions, they expressly prohibit use of the canisters otherwise than in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
A response from Queensland police stated “possession of nitrous oxide [in the small bulbs] is not illegal in Queensland, as there are legitimate uses for them”.
“If police were able to prove that retailers were selling nangs in bulk numbers and were able to prove they knew their intended use was for human consumption, then further investigations can be commenced,” police said.
Oz Nangs did not respond to requests for an interview.
If you or someone you know needs help with drug or alcohol dependence go to www.liveslivedwell.org.au