Solihull Council is taking steps to address nitrous oxide misuse in the borough following concerns about its negative health, environmental and social impacts.
Also referred to as NOS, smart whip, balloons or laughing gas, nitrous oxide is a colourless gas mostly sold in pressurised metal canisters. Typically used as anaesthetic and for making whipped cream, increasing numbers of young adults nationwide are inhaling the gas for its psychoactive effects.* It is illegal to give away or sell nitrous oxide for these psychoactive effects.
The risks associated with recreational nitrous oxide use include, falling unconscious, oxygen deprivation, as well as spinal cord and nerve damage, which can lead to temporary paralysis.
On 14 March, a report was presented to the Solihull Health and Wellbeing Board, detailing the range of actions being taken to address nitrous oxide misuse in Solihull.
Councillor Tony Dicicco, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health, said:
“People inhaling nitrous oxide is a growing problem nationally, but it is particularly concerning to see the issue beginning to affect our local communities.
“Several of our litter picking groups have reported finding large numbers of discarded cannisters on their rounds: in car parks, lay-bys, parks, woodland areas, and other green spaces, as well as in residential areas.
“Local medical professionals are also concerned by the marked increase in NOS-related hospital admissions, so it is important that people, particularly our young people, understand the dangers involved in taking nitrous oxide.
“We are working closely with schools and colleges, with parents, businesses, health professionals, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner and community groups to improve awareness of the harms linked to nitrous oxide. Fundamentally, we all have a role to play in helping tackle its misuse.”
There is a webpage dedicated to nitrous oxide on the Council website, which provides more information on its health risks, how to report canisters as litter, what to do if you are concerned about the selling of nitrous oxide in Solihull and where to access support if you need it.
* The needs assessment conducted by the West Midlands Combating Drugs and Alcohol Partnership on the Prevalence of Commonly Used Drugs in West Midlands showed that nitrous oxide is the second most used substance amongst 16 – 24-year-olds.