MEMBERS of the community have aired their concerns over the evidential use of a legal high after numerous canisters have been found in a Moorlands town. Community group Cheadle Moorland Litter Pickers discovered several of these metal canisters, which were thought to have contained nitrous oxide (also known as ‘NOS’), behind the currently vacant Alton Castle public house in Tape Street, during one of its waste-collecting Sundays. Member Dean Powell told the Times and Echo about the discovery of these canisters.
“One place we look when we litter pick is behind Alton Castle where there are benches and shelter,” he stated.
“We’ve been there on three occasions now. The second time we went we saw a load of these gas canisters littered around.
“One of our litter pickers, Joan, who is a retired nurse, remarked that the use of gas canisters and alcohol is quite dangerous.
“Nicola notified the agent of Alton Castle who said they were going to pass it on to the owner.
“It’s certainly an issue. It’s probably young people gathering together under shelter drinking and using these gas canisters.
“Maybe it’s adults too, we don’t actually know who it is but it’s very concerning.
“When Joan had said about the danger of the combination of alcohol and this gas, I was really concerned about the risk it poses.”
Staffordshire Moorlands District Councillor (SMDC) Kate Martin, who was a qualified youth worker for over 20 years and used to run Cheadle youth centre, wanted to ensure residents knew of the risks associated with the legal high.
“I sit on the community panel at SMDC and Chief Inspector Mark Thorley (of Staffordshire Police) came to give us crime figures recently,” she explained.
“I raised the point about attaining a breakdown on the statistics on drugs as I was concerned with residents finding clusters of these cans.
“I’ve heard at other meetings that this is a problem in Werrington too.
“Although not illegal, parents need to be aware of the effect it can have when people use them.
“My main concern is that this is something legal you can buy off the internet but the effects of these can be sudden death from where a person’s throat freezes up.
“I’m not trying to scaremonger, we just need to make sure our youngsters are safe and make residents more aware.
“Parents may go into their children’s bedroom, see one of these canisters and not know what it is.
“Is this the new usable drug people use to get high on weekends now? Is this the norm for young people?
“It worries me that something like this is out there and people are not being educated. We need more services for drug and alcohol addiction.
“If people walk through Cheadle and see it, they need to report it to the police so they can target that area on their feet.
“Well done to the Cheadle Litter Pickers for the great work they do.”
According to Frank, an anti-drugs advisory service, it is “very dangerous” to inhale NOS directly from the canister or in an enclosed space.
Too much of the substance, the organisation states, and a person risks falling unconscious or suffocating, stating that many people have died this way.
Other risks include dizziness, nerve damage and white blood cell de-function.
Chief Inspector Mark Thorley told the Times and Echo that he was aware of the discovery of NOS canisters around the Moorlands.
He stated: “I am aware of incidents across Moorlands where canisters have been found at the rear of unoccupied premises.
“In each case these are cleaned away and local officers consider it in their future patrols when they will monitor and seek to identify those who may choose to use this product so they can offer advice and consider safeguarding where necessary.
“It is not illegal to possess such canisters but it is an offence under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 to supply them for its psychoactive effect.
“My team will ensure that during their regular talks with local schools it is raised and the dangers made apparent.”
Although unable to give specifics on NOS incidents themselves, Staffordshire Police issued the Times and Echo with statistics in relation to drug offences in the Moorlands over the past year.
Within this time, the force has recorded 97 crimes where drugs were recovered, with all of these cases being sought out via search and stop warrants.
In Cheadle, Blythe Bridge, Werrington and Tean, there were 39 offences.
This was slightly lower than Leek and Endon, where there had been 42 offences, but higher than Biddulph where there were 16 offences.
There were 220 stop searches in total with 155 of these drug-related.
A spokesperson for Staffordshire Police added: “During this time and as a direct response to drug related anti-social behaviour, we have successfully sought four house closure orders: two in Leek, one in Biddulph and one in Blythe Bridge.
“We also supported a housing civil injunction in Leek preventing an offender returning to the address.”
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