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18th Sep, 2021

Police urge residents to report nitrous oxide abuse as Home Secretary prepares for law review

WEST Mercia Police has urged people to report areas which have been blighted by the disposal of nitrous oxide cannisters.

The substance is used in dentistry, for inflating balloons and producing whipped cream in cake-making but some abuse the so-called ‘laughing gas’ for a short-term high.

It was legal for a long time but following the introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act in May 2016, businesses cannot sell it if they know it is being used for human consumption.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has now written to Prof Bowden-Jones calling for the latest health and social data so a review of the laws relating to it can be undertaken.

She said: “The abuse of nitrous oxide has been a source of concern for some time.

“The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs provided advice on nitrous oxide in 2015 and concluded the harmfulness of nitrous oxide did not seem to warrant control under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.”

She added since then use by young people had increased by 8.7 per cent between 2019 and 2020 to around 549,000 and said there had been increased concerns over the long-term effects caused by the inactivation of vitamin B12.

She wants to know whether – with the updated information – nitrous oxide should be controlled under the 1971 act.

“Should control be suggested, then I would welcome advice on appropriate scheduling under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.”

A West Mercia Police spokesperson said: “We await the decision on the consideration as to whether nitrous oxide should be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which would then see its use as recreational drug, illegal.”

He added people can report areas where drug use is prevalent to 101.

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