A recent survey conducted by Safer Bristol has revealed an increased number of young people in the city using nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, and ketamine.
Safer Bristol’s Substance Misuse Team used the online survey to question over 700 people about their drug use over the last 12 months in order to determine how Bristol’s City Council could improve drug treatment services.
Whilst the most frequently used drug in the city was alcohol, the survey revealed the use of a wide variety of other drugs, including cannabis, MDMA/ecstasy and nitrous oxide.
Those aged between 18 and 24 were seen to have the highest drug use out of all the age groups, with 65% having used nitrous oxide within the last year, and 67% having taken MDMA. The use of nitrous oxide was higher than expected with 156 people having engaged in the use of the substance within the last five years, and 110 having used ketamine, indicating relatively new trends in drug use.
Maggie Telfer, the Chief Excutive of Bristol Drugs Project, stated that: “People believe laughing gas is legal and is therefore safe, but it can definitely be very risky. […] 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.”
However, the use of Class A drugs such as cocaine and heroin were reported to be extremely low, in keeping with the National Treatment Agency’s (NTA) report in 2011 that showed a nationwide decline in their use, particularly in young people.
Based on the results, Safer Bristol have called for services that will reflect the changing trends of drug use, including more extensive support for those who consider themselves to have a problem with drugs that are not Class A.
Gary Hopkins, a member of the Safer Bristol Board states: “It is important for society and for drug users themselves that we have good services to help people who are concerned about their drug and alcohol use. These results will help us to shape our services to match the changing trends in drug taking”.
For further information on the current services available for substance misuse in Bristol, visit: http://www.bdp.org.uk/

Aminah Jagne