LAUGHING gas canisters found in South Warwickshire have prompted police to warn of the potentially fatal consequences of inhaling the gas.
Nitrous oxide – commonly known as laughing gas – has become widely used by people who inhale it looking to experience a quick high – but it has also been responsible for a number of high profile deaths.
Residents in Shipston and Long Compton have found small empty metal canisters which had contained nitrous oxide, raising concerns over the abuse of the gas which can be bought legally and cheaply.
Shipston-based PC Craig Purcell said: “Nitrous oxide is a gas with several legitimate uses, but when inhaled it can make people feel euphoric and relaxed. This happy feeling has led to it being nicknamed ‘laughing gas’.
“Some people also experience hallucinations. However, there is a risk of death as a lack of oxygen can occur when using nitrous oxide.
“If you see any of these canisters discarded please contact your local policing team so they can build up a picture of where they are being used.”
Police are also urging parents concerned their children may be inhaling the gas to contact them by calling 101 for further advice.
Nitrous oxide inhalation – the risks
* Unconsciousness or death from lack of oxygen. This occurs when the available oxygen for breathing is effectively pushed out by the 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.
* Can cause dizziness and affect judgement, which might make a user act carelessly or dangerously and put themselves at risk.
* Regular use of nitrous oxide can lead to deficiency of vitamin B12 and to a form of anaemia. The severe B12 deficiency can lead to serious nerve damage in some cases, which causes tingling and numbness in the fingers and toes and other extremities, and even difficulties with walking and pains in affected areas. Regular use may also depress formation of white blood cells.
* Severe vitamin B deficiency can develop with regular use of nitrous oxide. This can cause serious nerve damage, which leads to tingling and numbness in the fingers, toes and other extremities, and even difficulties with walking and pain in the affected areas.
* Mixing nitrous oxide with alcohol is especially dangerous as it can increase the risks associated with both substances and can lead to an increased risk of accidents or death.