During the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been a perceived increase in the use of the ‘party drug’ nitrous oxide (N20) in St Helens Borough and across the UK – evident due to the increase in related drug paraphernalia like canisters and balloons being littered in parks, open spaces and alleyways.
Now St Helens Borough Council is launching its ‘N2Othing to Laugh About’ campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of using the drug and rebuke those who leave drug related litter in public spaces.
Nitrous oxide is commonly known as ‘NOS’ or ‘laughing gas’. It’s a colourless gas which when used as a drug is dispensed from a small silver metal canister into a container, such as a balloon or plastic bag and inhaled from the container for a short-lived high.
Supply of nitrous oxide for recreational drug use is illegal. This means anyone found to be selling, possessing to sell, or giving away nitrous oxide to be inhaled as a drug could face up to seven years in prison or an unlimited fine. It is legal to possess for personal use – but usage does come with risks.
It can cause dizziness, nausea, hallucinations and acts as a depressant. Mixing nitrous oxide with other substances increases the risks, as do underlying health conditions, and improper use. For instance, inhaling directly from the canister can cause suffocation, frostbite and even death.
Commonly used around festival scenes, its use has increased locally, in part due to the restrictions and closure of bars and clubs and its immediate accessibility.
The campaign will shed light on these risks and urge users to dispose of their litter properly.
Councillor Jeanie Bell, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said:
“While legal to possess for personal use, use of nitrous oxide as a drug is by no means harmless and can carry serious risks when used improperly or mixed with other substances. Associated drug litter and anti-social behaviour blight our parks and open spaces, causing great harm to the environment and our community pride. Please consider the dangers, and consider others.”
Report drug related litter to the council’s Contact Centre online at www.sthelens.gov.uk, call 01744 676789 or through the council’s app – search ‘St Helens’ in your app store.
To discuss concerns about a young person’s nitrous oxide use or any other drug or alcohol use – call the Young People’s Drug and Alcohol Team on 01744 677990 or visit www.sthelens.gov.uk/ypdaat for support.