Fears are growing over the use of ‘hippy crack’ across South Yorkshire as scores of gas canisters were found dumped.
Police say they have concerns about the increasing use of the ‘potentially lethal’ legal high after canisters of nitrous oxide – nicknamed laughing gas or hippy crack – were found in streets and woodland in Sheffield and Rotherham.
Detective Inspector Graham Bulmer, of South Yorkshire Police, force lead for drugs and related criminality, said: “Legal highs, or novel psychoactive substances, are a growing area of concern for, not only the police, but health agencies and others too.
“Potentially lethal substances are being sold or given to individuals, with no real explanation as to the possible risks or consequences of taking that substance, and many are marketed as ‘not for human consumption’.”
Fifty canisters have been recovered in Green Lane, Ulley, with another 14 found in Church Lane, Aston.
Further canisers were found in Barbers Field, Woodseats.
Wendy Zealand, Sheffield south west area co-ordinator for Neighbourhood Watch, told a meeting of the Sheffield city centre residents’ action group: “There has always been evidence of young people taking drugs in that area.
“In the past, we have found little drug packets in the bushes, but this is the first time we have found a canister.
“It’s something we really want to keep our eyes on.
“In the past we have been in touch with police, who go to talk to the young people to tell them how silly they are being.”
Nitrous Oxide, often dubbed ‘laughing gas’, is not illegal to possess but it is illegal to sell to people under the age of 18 if you believe it is likely they will inhale the substance.
Inhaling the substance can lead to fainting, while severe vitamin B deficiency can develop with use over time, as well as serious nerve damage, leading to tingling and numbness in the fingers and potentially, difficulty walking.
Mr Bulmer said: “We are particularly worried about the impact of legal highs on the younger members of our community – there seems to be a perception these substances are harmless and less risky than illegal drugs.
“This isn’t the case: the reality is many of these legal highs are incredibly dangerous and pose real risks to peoples’ health.
“We will continue to work closely with local authorities, health agencies and others to tackle this emerging issue.”
Stephen Horsley, interim director of public health for Sheffield Council, said: “I’d urge people not to use laughing gas as a recreational drug.
“It can cause dizziness and a lack of judgement and if used regularly, can cause problems with vitamin deficiency, trouble with blood cell formation and more serious health problems.”