Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as ‘laughing gas’, is sold recreationally either in balloons or small silver canisters, which can sometimes be seen littered in public spaces
A new multi-agency action group has been established by Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Barry Coppinger amid growing concerns over the use of nitrous oxide in Cleveland.
Representatives from the PCC’s office, trading standards, local authorities, youth offending, antisocial behaviour, public health, and drug and alcohol services met via conference call on Thursday (6 August), at the request of Mr Coppinger.
Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as ‘laughing gas’, is used in surgery and dentistry for its anaesthetic and pain-reducing effects. It is sold recreationally either in balloons or small silver canisters, which can sometimes be seen littered in public spaces.
Under the Psychoactive Substances Act, the substance is illegal to sell or give for recreational use, but there is currently no penalty for possession.
Research suggests the gas can cause a number of short-term adverse side effects such as mild headaches, along with dizziness, slurred speech and sedation. However, when combined with other substances, the risk of unconsciousness increases and long-term use can result in nerve damage caused by vitamin deficiencies and anaemia.
The group discussed the scale of the current problem in Cleveland and agreed to work together to identify opportunities to gather intelligence, educate young people and look at enforcement options if possible.
Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said: “Local residents and elected representatives have reached out to my office with their concerns about the growing evidence of nitrous oxide use in their area.
“Like so many issues, it cannot be tackled by one agency alone. By bringing a range of organisations together, we can create a proactive partnership to reduce the harm caused by the gas – both to individuals and to our communities.
“We have a great opportunity to utilise existing youth engagement avenues to educate young people about the dangers of the gas and work with trading standards to identify any local supply routes.
“Enforcement is limited in this instance, but I’ll be seeking advice from Cleveland Police at future meetings about what further options could be considered.”
Mr Coppinger asked the group to reconvene in early September.
Posted on Friday 7th August 2020