A Canterbury woman left paralysed after becoming addicted to NOS is calling for the sale of canisters to be made illegal.
Larissa Wright lost her business, $20,000 car, family, friends, to her habit but it took losing her ability to walk for her to go "cold turkey" and realise the true harm she was causing herself.
"It started off as a fun thing, recreationally, I'd buy a box of ten and a bag of balloons, that's what I was doing as a social thing," Wright told Newshub.
"Then the ten just wasn't enough, so I started buying a box of 50 and then I'd go through a box of 50, and I could go through that in 20 minutes.
"It was a constant struggle, at one point I was spending about $380 a day, and on 160 cartridges a day. At the start, I thought 'this is legal, I'm doing nothing wrong'."
Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas, also known as nos, nangs and laughing gas, commonly used for sedation and pain relief but can also be used by people to feel intoxicated or high.
The sale of canisters for recreational use is banned under the Medicines Act 1981 however the product is legal within the food industry - where it can be used for cream whipping devices - and is commonly sold over the counter in dairies around New Zealand.
Wright's addiction worsened over just four months, beginning as a way to avoid drinking alcohol while hanging out with friends and ending with her isolating in motel rooms to get her fix.
Brought up around gangs, the 35-year-old told Newshub she's had a lot of drugs and alcohol in her life but gave up drinking six years ago and turned down methamphetamine.
"I've had quite a traumatic life, and a lot of my friends are doing crack. I think from all the abuse and being brought up around drugs, it was kind of acceptable, it was normal, it was what I knew, but as I got older I realised that wasn't what I wanted for my family."
Six months ago, she found herself going through a really hard time, struggling with PTSD from an abusive 12-year relationship, losing her father who she says was her "backbone", unresolved issues from her childhood and found her mental health deteriorating.
As she and her current partner went through a rough patch, she relied on NOS as a form of escapism.
She says NOS made her feel relaxed, zoned out, good about herself and she chased the distorted sense of reality.
"It became my best friend, I'd always rely on it and it was easy, the people that were selling to me at the dairy knew that I was abusing it but they never asked me if it was for making cakes or anything."
When Wright's family sat her down to do an intervention three months after establishing her use of NOS was far beyond recreational, they played a documentary on YouTube which showed a woman who ended up paralysed.
"I thought 'that won't be me, that would never be me', and woke up one morning on the 29th of January and I was fully paralysed. I thought I was going to die."
It was the moment she hit rock bottom, unable to move her arms or legs, she realised irreversible damage was done.
"I couldn't move and I knew exactly what was wrong with me. I had had little signals up until that point, I'd get tingling in my feet, tingling in my hands."
She was rushed to hospital by an ambulance and on the way admitted to paramedics she thought she might have nitrous oxide poisoning after ignoring the warning signs.
At the hospital, her neurologist and specialist didn't know how to treat her.
"I was actually discharged from the hospital without b12. NOS kills all the b12 in your system, so your b12 is a vitamin and it's vital to have it - if you don't you can die.
"My body was shutting down because I had full-on nerve damage through my whole body. It nearly killed me, it put me in a wheelchair, I can't write, I can use a phone and use my fingertips."
Its impact has also made her forgetful, suffer memory loss and she lives with psychosis.
"When you have nitrous oxide your body is deprived of oxygen, your brain - it kills off your brain cells and stops the carbon dioxide, no one takes it seriously, my friends still use it and I just pop their balloons."
Wright is now preparing to fight to get NOS canisters out of shops in New Zealand - it's not illegal here to buy nitrous oxide over the counter, but Wright says it should be.
"People could say well you were doing 160, but then I went down to 100, I was in treatment for nitrous oxide when I went paralysed, was down to 20 a day, but one NOS canister can do this to you, just one NOS canister.
"Don't be shy to speak up to your friends, make them be held accountable and if you see them in the shops, approach the dairy owner and ask 'why are you selling these'. It's profits over people."