Mum of student who died from laughing gas calls on ministers to make it a Class A drug

Ellen Mercer died from a cardiorespiratory collapse in February 2023

The mother of Ellen Mercer, a student who died from long-term use of laughing gas, has called on ministers to upgrade the substance to a Class A drug.

Sharon Cook lost her daughter in hospital last year, months before possession of the drug was made illegal.

24-year-old Ellen was found to have had “features of neurological compromise” which were later attributed to nitrous oxide, or laughing gas.

Talking to The Sun, Sharon said: “I got a phone call saying that she died of a heart attack and a stroke.” She was later informed that her daughter had died as a consequence of nitrous oxide consumption.

She added: “I had no idea she was addicted.”

Sharon had previously called for tougher restrictions on nitrous oxide, which was reclassified as a Class C drug in November 2023 making possession illegal.

Speaking about how more barriers need to be put in place to protect users of laughing gas, Sharon said: “It is illegal now, but it’s too late for Ellen. More needs to be done.

Explaining why the substance should be reclassified, she said: “Nitrous oxide can kill you. It should be a Class A drug. If you are caught selling it you should be locked up. Don’t mess with it. It’s not worth your life.”

Nitrous oxide was found to be responsible for just three deaths in 2020 compared with 777 deaths from Cocaine, a Class A drug, in 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics.

If made a Class A drug, nitrous oxide would carry a maximum sentence of seven years for possession and a life sentence for its supply as a recreational drug.

In a review of the initial ban on the substance, experts on the Advisory Council on The Misuse of Drugs said the tightened laws on nitrous oxide could have “significant unintended consequences”, including users not seeking medical help.

A full inquest into Ellen’s death is due to be held on April 10th.

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