Police have issued a stark warning about the dangers of so-called 'hippy crack' after seeing an increase in people abusing nitrous oxide across the county.

On Thursday, officers in Rossendale had been alerted to an incident in which the occupants of a vehicle had been seen using the substance before discarding silver canisters, in which it is contained, on the floor.

They are now wanting to warn parents and members of the wider community of the effects and potential dangers of the drug.

A spokesperson for the police said: "During the warmer weather we’ve seen more and more incidents of these across Lancashire as a whole.

"People may have been made aware of or have seen an increase in the number of metal canisters scattered around paths and grassed area, so we want to take the opportunity to give you some key information.

"We’re not silly to think that we might be able to fix this overnight – but all of us, as parents and as a community, need to be aware of the effects of nitrous oxide and the law around it."

Nitrous oxide - also known as laughing gas or NOs, is a colourless gas which people inhale – usually with a balloon.

If inhaled directly from the canister, it has the potential to stop a person from breathing by causing spasms of the throat muscles – if not treated quickly, this could kill.

If used regularly, it has the potential to make you anaemic – as the levels of nitrous oxide can cause a dip in your vitamin B12 levels.

Severe B12 deficiency can cause nerve damage and make it incredibly painful to walk, or use your hands.

The spokesperson added: "NOs is classed as a psychoactive drug, and falls under the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act, meaning that should a mate sell you some or even just gives some away to another person, they could end up in prison for up to seven years, receive an unlimited fine, or both.

"We understand that these are challenging times, but try to be savvy and safe.

"If you, or someone you know doesn’t know the law and feels that sharing is caring, they may feel different when they’re in the know on what’s at stake."

Lancashire Telegraph:

During the spell of nice weather back in June, beauty spots across the North West were left in a state as the remains of canisters of nitrous oxide, known to some as “hippy crack” or “balloons”, were littered across areas in Bolton and Lancashire.

People were spotted inhaling the drug at popular spots such as Blackpool Beach, Lower Rivington Reservoir and Moss Bank Park, just metres away from families and children.

The craze of inhaling nitrous oxide using balloons has appeared to become increasingly popular with younger people and is typically used as an addition to drinking.

Dr Tracey Myton, consultant in addiction psychiatry for Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Nitrous oxide is a gas, the use of which seems to be increasingly popular with young people.

“It can initially cause feelings of well-being and relaxation but then can also cause people to feel dizzy, anxious and hear or see things which are unreal and frightening.

“The main danger after taking nitrous oxide is that these altered feelings and perceptions may lead to careless risk-taking behaviour, falls and accidents."

Anyone wanting to speak with the police about such incidents, can call 101, or if you are wanting to have a chat with your children on the effects and law around drugs, visit orlo.uk/5bly1.