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London student may have died from long term implications of laughing gas, inquest hears

The drug known as ‘laughing gas’ was made illegal in November after Ellen Mercer’s death

The death of a 24-year-old London student may have been the result of long-term use of nitrous oxide, an inquest heard.

Ellen Mercer died in hospital on February 9th last year after suffering “sudden cardio respiratory collapse” according to the MailOnline.

She was also found to have had “features of neurological compromise” which were later attributed to nitrous oxide, or laughing gas.

A post-mortem concluded that her death had been due to “long-term complications” related to the gas.

At the opening of her inquest on Monday, the coroner Hannah Godfrey said that Ellen “had a history of nitrous oxide abuse.”

She was described by her family as a “truly beautiful and gentle soul” who will be “missed by everyone lucky enough to have met her”

Writing on social media after her death, Ellen’s mother Sharon Cook said: “I miss you so much my darling girl. Hope you’re being well looked after by dad and grandma. I wasn’t ready for you to leave me.”

In 2020/2021 NHS data showed nitrous oxide to be the third most used drug among 16 to 59 year olds in England and Wales.

Abuse of the nitrous oxide can result in brain damage and suffocation due to lack of oxygen and there have also been deaths connected to use of the drug whilst driving.

Possession of the party drug, also known as nos, was not made illegal until after Ellen’s death in November 2023, when it was classified as a class C drug and made to carry a maximum penalty of two years for repeat users and 14 years for dealers.

Speaking after the rule change last year, the chief executive of Neighbourhood Watch, John Hayward-Cripps said: “For communities across the country, this change in the law will be a positive move towards tackling anti-social behaviour and making local communities a better and safer place to live. We encourage members of the public to report any illegal consumption of nitrous oxide or other drugs to their local police force.”

A full inquest will be held later.

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