The remains of ‘legal high’ use was discovered in a Northampton park over the weekend, as evidence emerges of increasing use in the county.
Over the weekend a number of canisters and balloons used to inhale the gas were discovered by a bench on the Racecourse.
Nitrous oxide – also known as laughing gas – has several legitimate uses but can be used by people as a so-called legal high. In some cases, it has been know to cause people to hallucinate.
Jolene Watson, project coordinator at Solve It, said: “We recently did a consultation with young people in Northamptonshire aged 16 to 25-year-olds about their experiences of legal highs and volatile substances including nitrous.
“We found 23 per cent had experienced legal highs and a high number of those was with nitrous oxide, also known as ‘nozzing’.
“The gas is not illegal and finding the small canisters and balloons in an area in parks or on estates seems quite common.
“There are different groups that use it. There are students and older teenagers who use it socially at parties and on nights out, and then younger teenagers who gather in parks and other areas.”
Use of the gas as a drug increased in recent years. The Global Drug Survey showed that in 2014 when asked 20.4 per cent of respondents in the UK said they had used nitrous oxide.
Jolene said: “We have seen an increase in people using nitrous. I think it’s partly down to its availability, but also young people who go to Magaluf and the party destinations where it is quite available and using it when they return home.
“With using nitrous the main issue is that you are starving your brain of oxygen. That can lead you to passing out, and if it’s mixed with alcohol that can lead to a whole range of risks from accidents.
“There have been deaths, but usually the victims had taken more than one thing,” she added.
Earlier in May, Solve It received a £240,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund to tackle the use of ‘legal highs’ in the county.
Jolene said: “The project looks at volatile substances like nitrous, and also the new synthetic drugs, and will include us doing workshops with children in Year 6 at primary school, at secondary schools and freshers fairs, as well as community events.
“They are about helping people build resilience so that when they are offered substances they feel able to say ‘no’.
“It’s about giving people the information on the risks so they can make a decision.
“We’ll also be talking to parents so they know what to look out for.”
Advice and information for young people and parents on nitrous oxide and other legal highs is available at www.solveitonline.co.uk.