Warning issued over massive laughing gas canisters up to 80 times regular size
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A warning has been issued over the use of massive laughing gas canisters, which are 80 times bigger than the regular dose.
Experts have spotted a sharp rise in the use of larger canisters by young people, while hospital admissions linked to the drug have gone through the roof recently.
The average silver canister that you often see strewn along the road contains around 8g (0.28oz) of nitrous oxide.
However, supersized versions, many hundreds of times larger than the standard canister, are now in vogue and are being used by people across the country.
These are often branded with Smartwhip or Goldwhip and are specially-designed and legally sold to the catering industry for whip cream.
The gas inside was originally used for anaesthesia but it is now being taken recreationally, and while it is said to provide a short burst of euphoria, it can cause paralysis and even death if inhaled excessively.
Professor Harry Sumnall, from Liverpool John Moores University, told the BBC that people are not able to regulate how much they consume with the bigger containers.
He said: "With the larger canisters, people don't know how much gas is in there, so it could be that we see an increase in the number of these more serious cases."
One of those who has been affected by the drug is Kerry Donaldson, who has been left paralysed from years of abuse.
The 25-year-old started inhaling nitrous oxide in 2017, with her usage quickly escalating into three-day binges that would leave her vomiting for days.
Shen eventually managed to knock it on the head in 2020 after a series of trips to hospital, due to numbness in her hands and legs.
But in January 2022, Kerry was hospitalised once again and told by doctors that her habit had led to a disc bulge in her lower back, leaving her unable to walk.
Kerry - who worked as a receptionist prior to the devastating diagnosis - is now dependent on her family for round-the-clock care and uses a wheelchair to get around.
She recently shared her story to try and raise awareness about the dangers of nitrous oxide use.
"I was doing it [balloons] on-and-off, usually at the weekends," she recalled. "It was the social thing, everybody was doing it.
"I didn't really understand the damage that it could cause. I just thought it was a bit of fun, I didn't think it would harm me. I was uneducated on the subject."
Adding: "I want to go into schools and colleges to speak to young people and educate them. I want to go to universities too, as I know balloons are used a lot there.
"There needs to be a lot more education regarding nitrous oxide use. I don't think a lot of people know about the potential effects."