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Silver capsules strewn all over Formby in huge quantities is becoming a problem

You may have seen these small silver capsules lying on the floor around our Bubble but do you know what they are? Why are they there? They are Nitrous Oxide.

Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas that when inhaled can make people feel euphoric and relaxed.

The effects of the gas have seen it nicknamed “laughing gas”, but it can also cause some people to have hallucinations.

The effects are caused by the drug slowing down the body’s brain and responses. Nitrous oxide is normally bought in pressurised canisters. It is then transferred to a container such as a balloon to be inhaled.

Nitrous oxide can cause dizziness and effect your judgement, creating a risk of accidents.In large quantities it can also cause the user to faint. If nitrous oxide is inhaled through the mouth from a pressurised gas canister or in a confined space it can cause sudden death through lack of oxygen.Heavy, regular use of the drug can cause a deficiency of vitamin B12 and a form of anaemia.Severe vitamin B deficiency can cause serious nerve damage.

There are legitimate uses for nitrous oxide, including numbing pain during medical procedures, use in catering aerosol cans and in engines. But, it is illegal to sell or import the drug for human consumption.

Capsules found in the Rose Gardens in Duke Street Park

The small silver canisters can be found all over Formby, on the beach, in the parks and most recently in the Rose Gardens at Duke Street. The photo above was taken by a Formby resident who said: "I was enjoying my normal dog walk at Duke street park. I walked into the Rose Gardens and came across approx 120 of these canisters next to the benches. Normally one or two around, but never seen this many there before. It was not a pleasant sight! I scooped them all up and took them home to put in the recycle bin."

Another resident and two friends spent a long time clearing up dozens of them in Deansgate playing fields car park. She said: "This is the worst we've seen yet, there were more in the basketball cage but, we'd had enough by then, the dogs were getting hungry! We'd already picked up all the rubbish left after the school kids."

Capsules found on Deansgate Lane car park

Nitrous oxide is often referred to as hippy crack. There is some debate about how the term came into use, some argue hippy refers to the laid back stereotypical user while crack is a reference to the drug’s quick onset. The drug may also be called whippits, laughing gas or chargers.

Nitrous oxide dissolves in the bloodstream, reducing the amount of oxygen flowing to the brain and other vital organs. This can have devastating consequences, causing strokes, blackouts, seizures and heart attacks.

There is also a risk of asphyxiation, which can lead to brain damage, or death by asphyxiation.

Please advise your children not to take these dreadful drugs.

Unfortunately the drugs, taken for their psychoactive effects, have been a growing problem, with many users not being aware of the dangers of the substances because they were classed as legal.

Hospitals report that people suffering ill effects and presenting at A&E have no idea what it actually is that they have taken as there is no indication on the packaging, making the patient extremely difficult to treat.

We have all heard the tragic stories of young men and women dying from the effects of these drugs, and others who change into depressed individuals due to after effects, with many turning to self-harming and suicidal feelings.

The Public Health Team at Liverpool City Council have issued the following advice:

  • Do not use “legal highs” The term legal does not mean they are necessarily safe

  • Where an individual intends to use a “legal high” always chose to use much less than they think they may need

  • Where an individual is experiencing mild symptoms after using a legal high, drink plenty of fluids, take some fresh air and give a little time for symptoms to subside

  • Where symptoms are more severe visit A&E

  • If somebody has longer term health concerns after using a “legal high visit they should visit their GP

  • For further information on “Legal Highs” go to

Merseyside Police issued this statement last year when the Legal Highs were made illegal:

Please see below the statement issued by Merseyside Police outlining the change in law and advice on what to do if someone is suffering ill effects from taking them:

Merseyside Police warning over change in law on ‘legal highs’

Merseyside Police is warning people to be aware of a change in the law on so called ‘legal highs’ that came into effect on Thursday 26 May 2016.

It is illegal to supply legal highs for human consumption which includes selling or giving them away for free (even to friends) when they are going to be taken for their psychoactive effects. Importing them from abroad will also be a crime.

Merseyside Police will be working with partner agencies including trading standards officers to enforce the new legislation with punishments ranging from a prohibition notice to up to seven years in prison.

Police officers will also have new powers to stop and search people who they think are supplying and will seize and destroy ‘legal highs’ when they find them.

Detective Superintendent Lee Turner said: "Legal highs are sold under a range of names and brands – mainly in ‘head shops’ or over the internet. "Our advice to people has always been not to take any substances if they don't know exactly what's in it or where it came from. "Often people who take new psychoactive substances, have no idea what they are taking - these substances don't come with a list of ingredients and it's very hard to find out what it is. It is illegal to produce, supply, import or export a psychoactive substance that is likely to be used to get high and offenders could face up to seven years in prison.

"Merseyside Police will be working with partner agencies including trading standards officers to enforce the new legislation and will be using various methods of enforcement including civil and criminal proceedings against any shops or individuals found doing so."

The new legislation has been welcomed by Merseyside’s Police Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, who is already working with Merseyside-based charity Evolve to tackle this issue in the region.

Evolve provides specialist services to increase knowledge and awareness of the potentially devastating consequences of abusing ‘legal highs’. In March, the charity received a grant from the Commissioner’s Crime Prevention Fund to carry out its vital work in schools, colleges and youth groups. The funding enables Evolve to deliver preventative sessions across the region warning young people of the dangers of taking these substances, as well as offering group work and one-to-one support.

Jane said: "Too many young people have assumed that because these substances are ‘legal’ that they are safe to consume. That couldn’t be further from the truth and sadly in this region we have already seen the devastating consequences of what can happen when young people experiment with these dangerous substances.

"The introduction of this law makes it quite clear that these substances are illegal and they are harmful. I hope it will stop many young people from experimenting with these potentially fatal substances.

"It’s not enough just to legislate though and that’s why earlier this year I was delighted to give my backing to the charity Evolve. Evolve works to educate and warn young people of the dangers of taking these substances to try and help reduce and prevent the harm they are causing.

"Evolve are leading the way in guiding our young people away from these harmful substances and providing support and care for those who have already been tempted into abusing them and I was delighted to be able to commission them to carry out this work across Merseyside."

Evolve was founded by former nurse Barbara Skinner and qualified counsellor Alison Hodgson, who have both suffered personal tragedies as a result of so-called ‘legal highs’.

In 2007, Alison’s 23-year-old nephew Christian died as a result of drugs after first abusing Volatile Substances. Just five years later, her 14-year-old nephew was hospitalised as a result of abusing so-called ‘legal highs’.

Alison said: "I was absolutely heartbroken, but I was also angry, angry that he had succumbed to peer pressure without any thought of the consequences. Prior to this law coming into place, any young person from any background or community could get hold of these ‘legal highs’ and the effects could be devastating. ​Alison added: "These young people have been taking their lives in their hands every time they abuse these substances. In the last few years, hundreds of new substances have been created, but the young people that are taking them have no idea what they contain and the effects those ingredients will have.

"We created Evolve because we wanted to bridge the gap between this illegal and legal substance abuse.

"The introduction of this law makes it clear; these substances are not harmless fun. They can inflict serious damage and are potentially lethal.

"Over the last couple of years we have been taking that message to more than 750 young people every month in school assemblies, youth workshops and community sessions.

Through targeted education and early intervention our aim has been to warn young people of the dangerous they face. We have also worked to increase knowledge among parents, carers and guardians – ignorance is not an excuse.

"Everybody needs to be aware of the consequences of abusing these substances and I hope the creation of this law will take that message into many homes across Merseyside."

To access local help and support Tel Freephone 0800 0196 197

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