Fears for teenagers after shocking image shows extent of drug abuse at Wigan beauty spot
Fears are growing for the safety of Wigan youngsters as wildlife group reports collecting thousands of “laughing gas” shells from a beauty spot.
Friends of Three Sisters have this week published photographs of the car park at the nature reserve littered with hundreds of empty canisters.
Laughing gas, also known as nitrous oxide, is typically inhaled through a balloon, giving users a short high.
The group says that it has collected more than 2,000 containers in recent weeks alone, indicating a growing trend in abuse at the spot.
A member of the group said: “We find them regularly but this time there were around 500 we picked. We are getting a bit concerned about it. There were canisters and empty boxes all over the car park. We want to get the police involved. The users are teenagers in cars who park up and use canisters to blow up balloons then breath in the gas to give them a high.
“The canisters cost 30p each so this morning’s haul cost £150 plus the cost of the balloons. They are obviously doing this drug and then driving into the community. Whether they are high or not, we don’t know.”
Since the Psychoactive Substances Act came in in 2016, it is illegal to supply nitrous oxide for illicit purposes, an offence which can carry a seven-year jail term. Although it has in the past been widely used in nightclubs, festivals and tourist hotspots abroad, laughing gas can have dangerous side effects including suffocation.
The Friends of Three Sisters spokesman said the gates are supposed to be locked each night, but since the loss of rangers, this happens less often than not. He said: “If there are any cars left on there by the time it comes to close, the gates are just left open.”
David Gray, manager for crisis intervention and prevention, said: “We are working across the borough, with our partners and in schools, to remind young people of the dangers and risks association with using nitrous oxide.
"There are a number of side effects which can happen from regular use including red blood cell problems, that could result in anaemia, a risk of vitamin D deficiency with continued use and a link with mood swings and depression.
"Although official figures are not collected for deaths related to nitrous oxide, there have been reports of a number of deaths nationally linked to its use, primarily due to oxygen deprivation.
"We would encourage a referral to Addaction, for either adults or young people, for anyone requiring support with substance issues.”