My laughing gas addiction was worse than cocaine – I could feel my brain cells dying, says Trisha Goddard's daughter | The Sun

HER mum might be one of the most famous women on TV, but while Trisha Goddard was talking the nation through their problems, her daughter was battling her own demons.

Billie Dee, 32, from East London, has grappled with various addictions since the age of 22.

At the age of 11, she started drinking alcohol and "by the time I was 22 I was addicted to cocaine and MDMA," she tells Sun Health. 

“Mum was away working a lot. She knew I was troubled and that alcohol was an issue for me, but she didn’t know the extent of my drug use. I kept it hidden from her. 

“I was spending so much money on those drugs I decided to try nitrous oxide. 

“It was much cheaper, so seemed an affordable high and I knew it was used medically so I suppose I thought it was a safer high too.”

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Also known as laughing gas, balloons, hippy crack and nos, the colourless gas is usually inhaled using a balloon and sold in little silver canisters. 

The drug, popular with youngsters, offers a brief, euphoric high, but can leave people with debilitating nerve damage and can even be fatal.

Billie says: “It’s such a deadly drug; after doing it on weekends when I was at home alone, I could literally feel my brain cells dying on Mondays when I’d go into work. 

“I couldn’t think straight and would struggle to find words.”

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Legal to possess in the UK, nitrous oxide is used in dentistry, as pain relief during labour and in catering for whipping cream – but it is illegal to sell it as a drug. 

Now, increasing fears over the health risks have seen the Netherlands announce a ban on the distribution, sale and possession of nitrous oxide from January 2023. 

Maarten Van Ooijen, the Dutch state secretary for health, said: “The recreational use of nitrous oxide leads to enormous health risks. 

“In addition, the safety of non-users is also at stake.

"We have seen enough reports in the news that terrible accidents have happened due to road users using laughing gas.”


Drug advisors to the UK Government are currently considering whether to change the law on nitrous oxide. 

Between 2001 and 2020, 103 deaths were recorded involving nitrogen in Britain according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and deaths involving helium and nitrogen have increased over the past 20 years.

Dr David Nicholl, Consultant Neurologist at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham, has witnessed cases soar at his clinics. 

He said: “I’d have maybe one or two cases every few years a decade ago.

“Now I usually see one or two cases every week. Patients – mainly young men – present with tingling hands and feet or trouble walking. 

“One of the first questions I ask is whether they have friends with similar symptoms and when they say yes – which they invariably do – I pretty much know they’ve been using nitrous oxide. 

“I asked that question of a patient last week and he said seven of his friends had been in hospital with exactly the same symptoms.”

Dr Nicholl has recorded several cases of young people who, after using the drug at festivals or parties, have suffered irreversible nerve damage. 

He said: “Nitrous oxide inhibits vitamin B12 absorption and B12 is vital for nerve function.

“Take too much of it and the effects can’t be undone. 

“I saw a patient last week who won’t ever walk properly again and will always need crutches just because of this gas which kids and young people see as harmless. 

“I can tell you right now, it’s anything but harmless.”

Supersized large canisters of nitrous oxide used in catering, like Smartwhip or Goldwhip, appear to be pushing up hospital admissions, which have increased dramatically since the pandemic.

Although no research has yet been done on the correlation between the two, Billie says boredom plays a part: “No one turns to drugs if their life is filled and happy and meaningful. 

“I was bored and depressed when I started experimenting with alcohol and it went from there. 

“In lockdown, kids were stuck in their rooms, they didn’t have to face school the next day and you can get these canisters delivered to your door. 

“As a recovering addict, it feels like the pandemic was the perfect storm.”

For Billie, an intervention from an ex boyfriend – who discovered hundreds of cannisters she’d used – and family support meant she started recovery in 2018. 

I can honestly say nitrous oxide for me was far more addictive than any other class A drug

“My relationship with my mum (Trisha Goddard) by then was pretty non-existent.

"She knew I had issues but I would never have told her about my addictions and we barely spoke. 

“After a couple of years of therapy and then recovery, I felt able to be honest with her. 

“She was able to understand what I’d been going through and our relationship improved drastically.”

Billie adds: “I felt like I’d let my mum down, that I wasn’t who she thought I’d be, but that just made me feel ashamed and I’d turn to nitrous oxide to deal with it. 

“Having been addicted to MDMA and cocaine, I can honestly say nitrous oxide for me was far more addictive than any other class A drug.”

Clean for four years, Billie says recovery is ongoing but her relationship with her mum is back on track: “We’re closer now than we’ve ever been and there’s nothing I wouldn’t tell her.”

Billie fortunately hasn’t endured any long term effects from her abuse, but Dr Nicholl says more needs to be done to get nitrous oxide canisters out of the hands of children and young people. 

He says: “You can buy it in almost any corner store, no questions asked and there are constant online offers. 

“Discarded canisters have QR codes on them that you scan which take you to the website which offers a discount.”

He adds: “People are being left with life changing neurological issues for absolutely no reason. 

“I cycle to work and I see canisters on the ground everywhere. 

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“What’s more, I feel like we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg. I’ve spoken to colleagues across the country and they’re all seeing more cases presenting. 

“It’s only a matter of time before the number of deaths increases.”

Need to know: Laughing gas

WHAT IS IT? Nitrous oxide is an oxide of nitrogen, a chemical compound colourless gas.

NICKNAMES: Laughing gas, Nos, whippets, hippy crack, N2O.

EFFECTS AND SIDE EFFECTS: Dizziness, euphoria, giggling, hallucinations, deep voice, blurred vision, loss of balance, nausea, headache.

LONG TERM EFFECTS: Anaemia, mood swings, depression, irreversible damage to the brain and nervous system, potential death.

IS IT LEGAL? Covered by the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, possession over the age of 18 isn't an offence unless it's for recreational use, however possession could become a criminal offence. 

It's legal to sell to the catering industry as it's used for whipping cream.

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