A North East MP has spoken out about a drug problem in the town claiming social media sites are contributing to the problem.

Peter Gibson, Conservative MP for Darlington has written a letter addressed to The House of Commons as well as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and Google.

In the letter, the politician has said that nitrous oxide is a serious issue in Darlington and is the third most prevalent drug among young people.

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Peter Gibson MP told The Northern Echo: “Clearly this is a general problem for the whole country, not just Darlington. My constituents raised the issue of these canisters being littered which is indicative of drug abuse.

“We need to raise awareness so that parents are clued up on this. This isn't something that is going to go away overnight and we need to engage with the police and the local authority.”

The letter reads: “Dear Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and Google,

“In the last year, 2.4% of adults aged 16 to 59 years and 8.7% of 16 to 24-year-olds had used nitrous oxide; this is equivalent to around 796,000 and 549,000 individuals respectively.

"This made it the second most prevalent drug among young adults aged between 16 and 24 years (after cannabis) and the third most prevalent for adults aged 16 to 59 years (after cannabis and powder cocaine).

“This level of nitrous oxide use among young adults mirrors prevalence levels reported by 15-year-olds in the most recent ‘Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England’ survey.

“Abuse of nitrous oxide is a serious issue for communities like mine in Darlington. It’s more dangerous when people inhale directly from the canister and using nitrous oxide may cause freeze burns to the hands.

"Too much nitrous oxide can make you faint, lose consciousness, or suffocate, deplete your body from B12, cause anxiety issues and life-changing nerve damage. Moreover, usage of nitrous oxide has been linked to dangerous driving deaths."

He adds: "Alongside the health impact, there are also a number of concerns regarding anti-social behaviour associated with the drug’s use, the disturbance caused by those using the drug in public, littering of empty canisters on the street and the impact on the climate, with nitrous oxide being more harmful to the climate than carbon dioxide and is steadily increasing in the atmosphere.

“I am concerned that images depicting abuse of nitrous oxide may be being circulated on your platform allowing children to be exposed to these images. What steps do you take and what safeguarding measures are in place to ensure that young people are not exposed to images this nature? Moreover, what steps are you taking to taking (sic) to prevent the sale of nitrous oxide to non-commercial outlets through or facilitated by your platform.

“I would therefore be most grateful if you could review these concerns and let me have your thoughts on the matters raised at the earliest opportunity.”

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