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30 May 2013, 06:00
Parents in the Thames Valley are being warned about the dangers of laughing gas as police say they're finding more empty canisters on their patrols.
The Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT) in Maidenhead and Windsor along with Thames Valley Police have issued a warning after finding a number of children with cartridges, which are available for just 30p online.
Officers are are discovering increasing numbers of empty nitrous oxide (N2O) cartridges and there have been reports by residents of seeing young people with canisters inhaling the gas from balloons.
An information sheet with images of the cartridges has been produced and widely distributed to young people via schools, youth clubs, community wardens and police community support officers.
Users may refer to nitrous oxide cartridges as 'whippets', 'buzz bomb', 'shoot the breeze' and 'NOX'.
Cllr David Coppinger, cabinet member with responsibility for the DAAT, said: "It is very worrying that this legal substance is being misused by some of our more vulnerable young people.
"Used in this way it can have terrible long- term consequences. I am glad that the DAAT is working in partnership with Thames Valley Police to educate young people of the potential dangers of nitrous oxide."
Chief Inspector Lee Townsend, deputy local police area commander, said: "Nitrous oxide is used by the catering industry to whip cream and is generally known as laughing gas.
"It is often used at festivals and raves and is usually inhaled from a balloon. It gives a high and a buzz, but can be dangerous. It can play havoc on the respiratory system and people can die from it as the larynx can close down and cause choking."
He added: "The cartridges can be bought in bulk over the internet for as little as 30p each so we are keen to educate people about the dangers.
"Parents might not know what the cartridges are used for or be aware how dangerous they can be.
"If we see them being misused we will look at seizing them for safety, and to assess the safeguarding of those involved but education is the big thing for us. Anyone distributing them for unlawful purposes could be looking at other offences."
Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, can, in extreme cases, kill. Effects of inhaling the gas include:
· a brief high or head rush - this can be similar to drinking alcohol but the high is a more intense and short-lasting blast (approximately two minutes)
· euphoria, generally followed by giggling, dizziness, distorted sound, slurred speech, difficulty walking or maintaining balance, confused thinking and possible loss of consciousness
· physical injuries, often associated with using the gas to get high and then falling or bumping into objects
· after regular use, nerve damage resulting in tingling and numbness in the fingers and toes and even difficulty walking - this is because nitrous oxide depletes vitamin B levels
· asphyxiation when nitrous oxide depletes the oxygen supply to the body because of too much inhalant in the lungs; if inhalation continues, the person will die.