Nitrous oxide inhalation among young people

In this project we study why and how young people use nitrous oxide (N2O) as an intoxicant as well as good and bad experiences associated with consumption


The aim of our project is to generate new insights into young people’s use of nitrous oxide as an intoxicant. In this study, we will focus on the contextual aspects of nitrous oxide inhalation for intoxication, including where, why, and with who they use it. We will also explore young people’s risk assessments of nitrous oxide use. Insights from this study can play an important role in developing future prevention and harm reduction strategies as well as informing political initiatives related to recreational use of N2O.


In recent years, recreational use of nitrous oxide among young people in Denmark is reported to have increased significantly. N2O inhalation for intoxication may be risky and damaging to health and, consequently, increased use has raised concerns among researchers, health authorities, politicians, and professionals (including treatment counsellors, prevention workers, police officers). Since 2017, it has been illegal to sell nitrous oxide canisters for intoxication purposes. Legislation was tightened further in May 2020, by defining new age and quantity limits for sale of nitrous oxide. Generally, there is very limited scientific knowledge on the use of nitrous oxide for intoxication among young people, both in Denmark and internationally. A 2019 report from the Danish Health Authorities was the first publication to document the use of nitrous oxide among 18-25 year olds in Denmark. Based on this, we have some knowledge on the prevalence of N2O consumption among specific groups of the population (those in youth educational programs). However, our current knowledge of where, with who and with which other substances nitrous oxide is consumed by young people is still limited. Consequently, this study will provide knowledge that is currently lacking in Denmark, and internationally.

The study

This study relies on in-depth interviews with young people between 15 and 25 years in Denmark. Our main research questions are:

  • In which situations and contexts do young people use N2O for intoxication?
  • How do they use N2O and with which aims?
  • How do they assess potential risks related to nitrous oxide use?

The study runs from September 2020 to August 2022.


The project is funded by Helsefonden.