THERE has been a huge rise in the number of youths taking "hippy crack" during the coronavirus pandemic, with gas canisters left discarded in parks and beaches.
Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, is inhaled as a drug and is being sold cheaply online.
There has been a jump in the number of canisters of nitrous oxide strewn across parks and public areas since the outbreak of coronavirus.
Many have been found dumped along with empty bottles of booze following illegal raves during lockdown.
Discarded canisters were found on Clapham Common after hundreds of revellers descended on the area for a late-night illegal rave on Saturday night in what was believed to be an unofficial Pride party.
It was one of a number of unlawful gatherings in London over the past five nights, which has seen clashes between cops and revellers at "block parties".
In Bournemouth – where a major incident was declared on Thursday after up to half a million people flocked to the area – hundreds of Brits were pictured inhaling nitrous-oxide balloons.
North Yorkshire Police officers have reported seeing an increase in the cannisters whilst patrolling the county, as have cops from Northumbria Police.
The gas was made illegal under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 but is available online.
A pack of ten canisters is listed on Amazon for £6.
It is often sold supposedly to make soda or whipped cream.
The Royal College of Nursing warned it can cause choking or tightness in the chest, nausea or vomiting and a dangerously high heart rate.
Regular users can suffer pain, numbness and long-term coordination issues, while a large dose starves the body and brain of oxygen.
Last week, leading pharmaceutical professionals, in an article on the British Medical Journal website, said it was "no laughing matter".
Co-author Luigi Martini, chief scientist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: "People think it is laughing gas, so it must be safe. A lot of parents do not understand these things are dangerous."
Five people died in 2017 with nitrous oxide listed on the death certificate, according to the ONS, compared with 1,337 deaths relating to heroin and morphine and 637 relating to cocaine.
In 2018, Olivia Golding, then 24 and a mum-of-one from Bristol, was confined to a wheelchair for over a month after inhaling "hippy crack".
She said at the time: "I can tell you it is not worth that ten-second high. This whole thing has left me devastated."
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