Police warn of dangers of 'laughing gas' as over 100 canisters seized from teenagers in Bishop's Stortford park
Police have warned of the dangers of inhaling nitrous oxide – also known as laughing gas – after more than 100 canisters were confiscated from a group of teenagers in a park in Bishop's Stortford.
A concerned member of the public alerted officers on Sunday evening after witnessing the youngsters using the canisters in the park next to Holy Trinity Church, off South Street. In addition to the 100-plus canisters that were recovered, a further 50 had been used and discarded on the ground.
A spokeswoman for Hertfordshire Constabulary said: "Officers attended and located one male and two females. On the table next to them were two empty boxes of canisters and two full boxes of canisters. There were also a large amount of used canisters and balloons on the table and littered on the grass around them.
"Their details were taken, schools will be informed and letters will be sent home to parents. The items were seized and have been disposed of."
Police are keen to highlight the dangers of inhaling the colourless gas, which can cause fainting, loss of consciousness or even suffocation, and urged parents to educate their children about the risks.
“Young people may not realise that this seemingly harmless activity can actually cause serious damage to their health or worse," said the spokeswoman. "It's important to raise awareness of this potentially dangerous activity and we ask families to support us by talking to their children about the risks."
Nitrous oxide is usually supplied in small metal containers and users inhale the gas from a balloon. It can make the user feel relaxed and giggly, but can also cause them to feel dizzy, anxious or paranoid and can cause sound distortions, headaches and stop you thinking straight.
According to drugs advice website Frank, the effects of the gas, which works immediately when inhaled, last for an average of one to two minutes and can vary from person to person.
"It is very dangerous to inhale nitrous oxide directly from the canister, and doing it in an enclosed space is also very dangerous. If you take too much you risk falling unconscious and/or suffocating from the lack of oxygen. People have died this way.
"Other risks include dizziness, which might make you act carelessly or dangerously; heavy regular use of nitrous oxide can lead to a deficiency of vitamin B12 and to a form of anaemia. Severe B12 deficiency can lead to serious nerve damage, causing tingling and numbness in the fingers and toes. This can be very painful and make walking difficult.
"Regular use can stop you forming white blood cells properly. It can be hard to judge the amount to use safely. If you have too much you can end up fainting, having an accident or worse," says the website.
It is also dangerous when mixed with alcohol.
The use of nitrous oxide is not illegal, however selling or giving it away for recreational purposes is prohibited under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. Those found doing so can face a fine and/or a prison sentence.