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Laughing gas found on increasing number of young suspects, Sussex Police say
Soaring numbers of young people are entering police custody having taken potentially fatal “laughing gas”.
Nitrous oxide provides a short-lived high and, while not illegal, experts say it is incredibly dangerous if used inappropriately.
In March The Argus revealed a number of shops in the city were selling the gas, which is more commonly used for pain relief.
And earlier this month, a midwife's car was broken into and gas and air canisters stolen while it was parked in Chichester.
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Now Sussex Police officers have said they have been confiscating a larger number of canisters off people who have been arrested, so it cannot be inhaled in cells.
Speaking to The Argus, Brighton-based custody Sergeant Dan Hiles said: “It seems to be a growing trend.
“I don’t have any stats, just our observations over the past few months with the younger prisoners and it’s not a controlled substance.
“The gas is decanted into balloons to deal with the issue of the very high pressure, and then inhaled for an instant but brief high.”
Nitrous oxide, which can be bought for £163.91 for 600 x 8g online, is legitimately used in catering and in hospitals for pain relief.
A Sussex Police spokeswoman confirmed there had been an upward trend across the county, adding: “Custody officers are finding people in possession of nitrous oxide chargers, aerosols sometimes used in catering, that they use to inflate balloons and then inhale for an instant but brief high. The gas, that can be used to numb pain, is a worryingly cheap source of intoxication that has medical risks.
“Some people can experience hallucinations, headaches and dizziness.
“Nitrous oxide can affect your judgement, which might make you act carelessly or dangerously, especially when mixed with alcohol, and put you at risk of hurting yourself.
“While it isn’t illegal, it is illegal to sell to anyone under 18 if you think they are likely to inhale it,” she said.
Some internet retailers promise “next day delivery” on the gas, which they says is only for “over 18s”.
But the drugs awareness website Frank added: “Unconsciousness or death from lack of oxygen can occur when using nitrous oxide. The risk is greater if the gas is consumed in an enclosed space or if a plastic bag is used that covers both nose and mouth.”
The website also warns about hallucinations.
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