YOUNGSTERS have been warned about the dangers of using ‘laughing gas’ after a number of canisters were found in a village.

Small blue canisters containing nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, were found lying on the ground in Middleton St George, near Darlington.

The canisters, which were discovered amongst shrubbery, were reported to Patryk Montelatyc, police community support officer for Middleton St George.

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While the drug is legal to possess, it is illegal to sell it to anyone under the age of 18.

Residents in the village have now raised the issue with the parish council, who are looking to increase awareness with youngsters about the dangers of laughing gas.

A spokesperson for Middleton St George Parish Council said: "While the drug is legal to possess, it still carries huge dangers and has been blamed for the deaths of a number of people.

"There is a risk of death because inhaling the gas can reduce the amount of oxygen the body can inhale, and it can have other long-term effects."

"The local police will be carrying out educational sessions at Hurworth School to raise awareness about the dangers, and they also advise that, if you see any of these around the village, please report it to the Borough Council."

A spokesperson from UK-wide drug and alcohol charity Addaction, which has a base in Hartlepool, said: “The use of Nitrous Oxide causes several deaths a year in the UK and although low-risk, should not be considered harmless.

"People using laughing gas are still taking risks with their health.

"The main dangers are not breathing in enough oxygen at the same time, or mixing it with other substances.

“If anyone has any concerns or queries, we have a free and confidential web chat facility on our website www.addaction.org.uk”

Sarah Norman, from Durham Constabulary, said: “People should be aware of the health risks associated with taking nitrous oxide, commonly known as ‘laughing gas’.

“Nitrous oxide is a depressant which slows down our central nervous system and can lead to oxygen deprivation.

“We have seen pockets of use in the area, especially where young people gather.

“We carry out education and awareness training in the area, including in schools.

“While nitrous oxide is not illegal to possess, it is illegal to sell for human consumption."

Anyone aware of nitrous oxide being sold is asked to contact Durham Police on 101.