Nangs, whippets, canisters of nitrous oxide. Whatever you call them, they've become really popular. As the 2016 Global Drug Survey reported, nangs (as we call them in Aus) are now the seventh most popular drug in the world, while in Australia the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System found their use has risen steadily. In 2015, 25 percent of respondents admitted to having used them. In 2016, that number was at 36 percent.
We wanted to meet some of Australia's most dedicated nang users. The people who are really at the forefront of the great nang expansion. So we got in touch with two people who use them almost every day, and one person who has only just kicked the habit. They told us why they got into them, how they're affected, and whether they intend to stop.
Note: names have been changed at the interviewees' request to protect their identity and reputation.
Doing nangs between four and seven nights per week for eight years
VICE: Hey Ricky, tell me about your typical habit.
Ricky: In a sesh, I usually do 10. Generally it's on the weekend but in some weeks, it's every night. Sometimes, I'll just walk through the door and if I feel like it, I just whip it down my face. I usually have them at night when I'm stressed. I'm finding them a bit more-ish in the sense that I'm doing them more now than before.
What do you find so appealing about them?
I like the way you don't think about anything. With work troubles, women troubles, or anything else that stresses me out, I'll just have a nang. I like the way it makes me just feel stupid. If I get blazed with weed, I feel mentally exhausted for hours after the high. But with nangs, I can almost forget I've had one after five minutes. And they're pretty cheap.
Are you concerned about your health after eight years on nangs?
Of course I'm worried. I've noticed that my memory isn't as good as it used to be. I'll also find myself sitting next to someone but being unable to carry a conversation with them. You can't drink everyday and do nangs and expect to not have any consequences. But I don't know what it's like to not be like that, so it's hard to isolate the problem.
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Do you tell people about your usage? Like, say on a date or something?
I don't fall over myself to tell people that I'm rocking nangs on the regular. It's not something that's very "money" is it?
Probably not, no. But what about your family or friends?
My family doesn't know but most of my friends do. They think it's funny and just ask me if they can do one. I've never had a friend, or anyone, tell me to stop doing nangs.
You're obviously aware that nangs aren't doing anything positive for you, so why continue to do them?
I suppose I'm just a hedonist. The beauty of them is they only [last] for five seconds. It's like smoking DMT: It's not a big commitment and I hate commitment.
Would you do anything else, or are you just all about the nangs?
I'm not loyal to them. If there was something better, I'd do it.
Do you want help?
I'm not looking for any help. I feel this is one of those "take it to the grave" things. What's life about, anyway? You've got to please yourself.
50-70 nangs per week for four months
Hey Zoe, what was the appeal of nangs for you?
Nangs are fun for a few seconds. They're easy to do on your own, and if you tell people, they just think they're funny and you're a fun person. It's not sad to do them alone in your room. I've been drunk alone in my room maybe three times, and it's depressing.
How did your habit get out of control?
I'd done nangs once or twice in social settings but once I realised they sold them down the road from my house and how cheap they were, I just jumped into doing 50-70 a week. I feel like it's made me really forgetful. At times when I've done them alone, I've passed out and woken up drooling. I really feel like I've damaged my brain.
How open were you about it with other people?
I was pretty open about it, especially on social media. I called myself the "nang queen." I didn't try to hide it from anyone, and people just found it funny. Only a couple of people were concerned. One of my friends told me nangs can kill you, and they even had a dream where I died. I took that quite seriously, because someone was actually worried about me.
Is that what made you stop?
No. What happened is I went to a doof and did maybe 100? Afterwards, my brain really hurt. I'm not trying to be dramatic, it really fucking hurt. My friends and I all did drugs, but no one else's brain hurt like mine. My parents were concerned as well. My mum, who I was living with at the time, kept telling me that nangs were killing my brain cells. She isn't a strict parent, she's more about harm minimisation. But my dad was really against it, which was strange because he's never told me off about drugs. He's done more drugs than anyone I've ever met so I take what he says seriously. One time, he asked me what a nang was and when I told him he said, "Nitrous oxide? What the fuck are you doing?"
Were you addicted?
I'd like to say I wasn't, because that sounds super lame. It was more like, if they're there I have to keep doing them. It still happens now. Two weeks ago with a mate, I bought 50 with him to share and once I'd done my own I started doing his. When it's happening, I can't stop. If you put them in front of me, I'll keep trying to do them. Even if we're splitting it.
Would you describe nangs as a serious drug?
No. No one takes them seriously. There's no effort needed in buying them. You don't have to talk to a drug dealer. They're super accessible. You can get 24-hour delivery, seven days a week. They're mega cheap. Any kitchen store has them. It's so easy. If they were taken seriously, there wouldn't be 24-hour nang delivery.
An average of 50 nangs per week for one year
Hey Guy, tell me about your nang habit.
The bulk of it is mainly done on the weekend when I've been up for couple days partying. I really enjoy that social aspect of them and the brief disassociation that comes with it. During the week, I still use it for that ten-second dissociation. Something might've happened and I just feel like zoning out for a while.
What triggers that need to zone out?
Whether it's been a tough time at work, or something happens with a friend. For example, the other Tuesday, I was coming down from a big weekend. I work a fast-paced job where a lot can go wrong. So when I came home, I had a drink and had 15 nangs to switch off. Sometimes drinking just isn't enough.
What's the appeal of nangs?
They're easily accessible and you feel OK afterwards. With my work being so demanding and stressful, I try to keep my drug use during the week to a minimum. A couple hours after a big session, you don't have that headache or that buzz as you do [with] other drugs. I'm still able to sleep, then wake up feeling fine and be safe to drive to work.
Have you had any problems, or serious side effects?
I wouldn't say it's a problem and I'm not addicted, but there are circumstances that have scared me. There were a few weeks where I experienced something dreamlike, where I'd feel like I was about to die. I have a friend's friend who's developed some serious neurological problems from nang use. All this is scary, but you just hope it doesn't get to that.
Who do you talk to about your nang habit?
There's people you spend the weekend with. For me there are probably 15 to 20 people who are aware. Then there's other people who're scared by it because they don't understand it or they're not around but I don't tell them. It's easier to not make people who don't understand worry.
Do the people who know say anything?
There is a sense of support. One time, at a kick on, I was having a lot of nangs over a long time with no sign of stopping and some of the people I was with were telling me to stop. They saw I was getting tired, and not reacting the same way as before. They felt that I was just chasing something and had pushed it far enough. I don't always listen to them though. And that's only ever happened when we're out out or still partying. Never during the week.
You're obviously of the opinion that the negatives don't outweigh the positives. So why continue to do them before it does become a problem?
I enjoy the social aspect to them and it allows me to escape from reality. Although I haven't made any steps, I believe that I'll get out of this before it's a problem. You have hard times and sometimes that weekend with your friends helps you escape. For me, that need to escape is a better way of trying to work out what's going on and what needs to be done.
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