“Without realising it, things just started to spiral out of control.”

For Josh, a 24 year-year-old from north Essex, his life has been changed forever from using nitrous oxide.

What started as a small amount aged 16 turned into a full blown addiction which cost him £60,000 and left him paralysed.

Josh, who has asked to remain anonymous, began using balloons when he was a teenager and was hanging around with some older friends.

He said: “It started with a very small amount that I took just to fit in with my friends and take my mind off any problems.

“When I started to work, I had more money in my pocket and without realising it, things just started to spiral out of control.


“To start out with it gives you a little high, but then quickly you need more and more to achieve the same result. It’s an escape from reality and any problems you have. You feel on top of the world.

“But as soon as it stops, you’re back to the worries until you get another one. I got addicted very quickly.”

Josh has used balloons from the age of 16 and described his relationship with them as an ‘on-off’ battle, spending £60,000 in total and at the peak of his addiction, £24,000 in six months.

It wasn’t long before Josh began experiencing some mild side effects, but initially he didn’t pay much attention to them.

He said: “Originally it started with tingling, pins and needles and shooting pains in my hands and feet, so I stopped for five days and the feeling in my hands came back, but not my feet.

“Then one night I was doing balloons and I had lots of sharp shooting pains in my spine; I thought I’d overdone it that night.

“The next morning I couldn’t stand up. My legs felt like they weren’t there. I tried to shake them off but I could only move them very slightly. When I went to take a step, my legs gave way and I collapsed. I knew why.”

Josh was rushed to hospital by his family and his was forced to admit the full scale of his addiction.

“I spent 12 days there – I had an MRI, brain, spine and lung scans, repeated injections and lots of tablets,” he said.

“They say that I now have a neurological disorder caused by the use of balloons, as well as B12 deficiency.

“It seems some of my receptors aren’t working the way they should be anymore and there is nerve damage around my legs.

“I can’t feel my feet so I need crutches to walk - and even that isn’t proper walking; I hunch over and shuffle. I don’t look like I’m in my twenties.”

Doctors can offer no clear timeframe for if, or when, his condition may improve.

He added: “I struggle with stairs and walking even 100 metres is challenging. My balance is gone and I can’t carry a plate to the table, as I need my hands for the crutches. It’s the simplest of things I can’t do anymore.

“I used to be very sporty and got close to England level, but now I don’t know if I will ever run or play football again.

“I can’t work. It’s ruined my life. My life has changed forever.”

Josh described how easy the nitrous oxide was to get hold of – delivered to the door from Amazon or eBay or picked up from a local shop.

He said it’s accessibility was making it soar in popularity with young people.

Josh has spoken out as the Government makes plans to re-classify nitrous oxide as a Class C substance this week.

It comes after Anna Firth, MP for Southend West, had launched a campaign calling for “urgent action” to tackle the issue.

Josh has issued a warning to you people who use the drug.

He said: “It’s dangerous because it starts off as a laugh without any side effects, but gradually they creep in. It has ruined my life.

“My message to young people is not to follow the crowd. I had a good life. I was fit and healthy, but I took it for granted. I really regret it.

“But I want there to be gain out of my pain, which is why I’m sharing my story to help others.”