Social worker expresses concern over soaring use of 'laughing gas' by young people

An increasing number of small canisters of nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas or hippy crack, are being found in Wigan, community leaders have said.

An increasing number of small canisters of nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas or hippy crack, are being found in Wigan, community leaders have said.

A Wigan Observer investigation has found that use of the canisters has risen over the past 12 months and is becoming a serious public health issue.

One of the areas with the biggest problem is Ashton, where substance misuse social worker Danny Fletcher has recovered thousands of the gas canisters, which are illegal to give away or sell, from public car parks in Ashton and Bryn.

An increasing number of nitrous oxide canisters are being found in Wigan, community leaders have said.

Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas that people inhale, sometimes via a balloon and can be extremely dangerous.

Mr Fletcher, who works for Lancashire County Council and is an Ashton Labour candidate, said he discovered a littering of more than 500 canisters at the church car park on Hilton Street recently.

He said the primary reason for misuse is recreational or to experiment with peers, with Mr Fletcher going on to warn that health risks of nitrous oxide includes restricting oxygen supply and Vitamin B deficiency.

He said: “As a substance misuse social worker I’ve seen how recreational drug misuse leads to more serious substance misuse, and potentially addiction.

“More is needed to change the law on selling nitrous oxide.

“My experience of nitrous oxide as a substance misuse social worker is that it can easily progress on to heavier drug misuse and even drug dependence. This is made worse by its limited public exposure and educational awareness.”

Coun Lawrence Hunt, who represents Wigan Central, has also noticed a problem, with hundreds being spotted across Haigh Plantations.

He said more needed to be done to educate young people and that greater police action was needed to tackle the problem.

He said: “There have been a lot of canisters recovered from the Haigh Plantations and around the dam in Swinley.

“They’re also everywhere around the streets in areas such as Swinley and Scholes.

“Education is needed through schools and more police action, as these canisters are potentially lethal.”