Police in Marlborough stamp down on teenagers sniffing nitrous oxide
A community support police officer has described how he found a group of eight teenagers in Priory Gardens, Marlborough, getting high on nitrous oxide, one of them sniffing it from a balloon.
“He was breathing in and out from a balloon filled with this gas and appeared to be having, in inverted commas, a bit of a fit,” PC Jon Mills told Marlborough News Online.
“His legs were twitching, his arms were twitching because the gas was having some sort of an affect on him. The parent of one of the lads who turned up was utterly shocked. She had never seen anything like it before.”
Now a warning has gone out from the police – and from a special assembly held at St John’s School -- telling teenagers how dangerous so-called laughing gas can be, that it is poisonous and can even kill.
The police have taken the names of the youngsters, aged between 14 and 16, and will be contacting their parents.
The nitrous oxide is obtained in cylinders normally used for whipped cream machines in the catering business that can be bought on the internet at a cost of around £140 for 600 canisters.
And these are now being found dumped in litter bins by Marlborough town council street cleaners.
“The websites do have a disclaimer on them saying they will not sell to persons under the age of 18,” explained PC Mills. “But there is no check on that, nobody is asked to produce driving licence details or anything like that. So it makes the cylinders easy to obtain.”
“But what the teenagers don’t know is that it is illegal to possess nitrous oxide under the age of 18 and that it is dangerous too.”
“Inhaling pure nitrous oxide without it being diluted with oxygen means you can suffer from asphyxiation because you are starving the brain of oxygen and that the side effects include nerve damage, paralysis, sudden sniffing death syndrome, really horrific things.”
Balloons filled with nitrous oxide can often be bought for just £2.50 at festival sites and at the door of night clubs or the cylinders acquired by debit cards.
PC Mills, 26, who has served in Marlborough for five years, was first informed of the craze in Marlborough by Val Compton, who has researched the problem after being told by street cleaners of nitrous oxide cylinders being found dumped in waste bins.
Other sites in Marlborough where the cylinders have been discovered include Stoneybridge Lane, Elcot Lane playing fields and the Salisbury Road recreation ground.
Police will now patrol these areas at lunchtimes and after pupils head for home at 4pm.
“I have never come across this problem before,” added PC Mills. “I had a real feeling of disbelief that something like this could hit Marlborough.”
“You get a high, a euphoric feeling that lasts about two minutes inhaling this gas. They did an experiment with it in a TV programme a while ago and they said it was the equivalent of having 10 gin and tonics.”