With the rise of the legal high, partiers are pursuing psychoactive experiences from substances like nitrous oxide and spice to attempt to have a good time without the law interfering.
The Isle Of Dogs has, apparently, become one of the hot spots for their consumption, particularly nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas.
As a result, many residents have taken to Facebook to complain about the issue and the anti-social behaviour it causes.
As well as the noise caused by groups taking the substance, island dwellers have been complaining about the mess they leave behind, posting pictures of canisters littering the streets.
But what is laughing gas, what are the health risks, is it actually legal and why have people chosen to use it on the Isle Of Dogs?
Why do people take laughing gas and what are the risks?
Dr Florentia Hadjiefthyvoulou, psychology lecturer at University Of East London , said: “Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, is a colourless, non-flammable gas that is traditionally used as a sedative agent to numb pain in dental procedures.
“Laughing gas can be used recreationally, usually inhaled through a plastic bag, for its euphoric and relaxing properties but it can also produce mild hallucinations.
“Some of the acute effects include dizziness and difficulty in thinking straight that might affect judgement leading to careless and potentially dangerous behaviour.
“Some of the dangers of laughing gas, if used in higher doses, include unconsciousness or death from lack of oxygen with a higher risk if it is consumed in an enclosed space or if the plastic bag covers both the mouth and nose.
“Heavy regular use of laughing gas can lead to a form of anaemia (due to vitamin B12 deficiency) or nerve damage in some cases causing tingling and numbness in the fingers and toes.
“Mixing laughing gas and alcohol is particularly dangerous as it can increase the effects of both substances and increase the risk of accidents or death.”
What does the law say about laughing gas and other legal highs?
The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 came into effect in May and outlawed the following:
- Producing a psychoactive substance
- Supplying, or offering to supply, a psychoactive substance
- Possession of a psychoactive substance with intent to supply it
- Importing or exporting a psychoactive substance
- Possessing a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution
It does not stop people from simply possessing it or using it.
What are the issues on the Isle Of Dogs and how can they be helped?
Cllr Andrew Wood, Tower Hamlets councillor representing Canary Wharf , said a lot of this anti-social behaviour is borne from people travelling to the Isle Of Dogs from other parts of Tower Hamlets.
He said: “These young men want to party, hang out and be a bit loud. Many are of Muslim origin so prefer not to drink alcohol to get a high. The NOX canisters are the perfect alternative or cannabis.
“But in doing so they tend to make a lot of noise late at night, to leave a lot of rubbish behind and they can be intimidating. They really need to find a better place to party than next to residential buildings on the island.
“A particular concern is that some of them inhale and then do a quick drive around in their cars while under the influence which is very dangerous.
“But the canisters are very visible afterwards and do cause a littering issue, why the young men wont use nearby bins for their other rubbish is another mystery.”
When asked how it can be dealt with he said there could be powers in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime And Policing Act, but only if the people using it were behaving in an anti-social manner.
He said: “Inhaling laughing gas canisters is not illegal so the police have limited powers to intervene unless the young men are also doing something else.”
Cllr Wood also pointed to the amount of council CCTV cameras on the island, describing them as “few and far between”, and the possibility of introducing more to the area to make the area less attractive to people using legal highs.
What’s the Met’s stance on legal highs?
A statement on the Met website says: “New psychoactive substances (NPS), sometimes called legal highs, should never be considered as safe. In some cases NPS can be more harmful than controlled drugs.
“NPS’ are not tested by the sellers to ensure they are safe for human consumption and can be a lethal cocktail of various stimulants and man-made synthetic compounds.
“NPS, designer drugs, or so-called ‘legal highs’ may not be legal, new substances are only without classification or recognition under legislation due to not having been identified and/or tested by government agencies.”
People are encouraged to report any of incidents of anti-social behaviour by calling police on 101.
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