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Laughing Gas Drugs Nitrous Oxide
Laughing Gas Drugs Nitrous Oxide
World News

Church youth workers could be liable after change to laughing gas laws warns Christian drug charity

by Ros Mayfield

Laughing gas has been made illegal in the UK, and Christian charity Hope UK is urging youthworkers to be aware of the changes.

The drug, which is a form of nitrous oxide, has been newly categorised as a Class C substance, meaning those caught dealing it could face 14 years in jail, whilst those who posses it with the intent of using it could also now be sentenced. 

It's a change that means anyone who's aware of its presence for recreational use is potentially complicit in a crime.

Mary Deller, a spokesperson for the Christian charity Hope UK, tells Premier youth leaders and anyone working with teenagers and young adults should familiarise themselves with the new rules:

"They would potentially be liable if they were permitting the use of a Class C drug on their premises. So it's something that youth workers very much need to be aware of.  We work with children, young people, but also youth workers, teachers, parents, carers, so we are very keen to make people aware of these changes."

Deller says the drug is most popular today among older teens and young people in the 16-24yr old age bracket.  She believes educating our young people about the risks of drug use is key.

"It's not as harmful as, say other drugs, but no drug is risk free. With any drug, there are going to be risks are going to be health harms, potential short term, long term. So these are some of the issues that in our education work we talk to young people about."

The charity also runs training for those caring for children and young people.

Deller is a strong advocate for more drug education, but tells Premier she's not convinced a ban will be effective for everyone: "A ban may be a deterrent for some, but as we know, with drug use generally, it's not necessarily going to deter that many people from using it if they're determined to do so."

Hope UK are concerned that a jail term could also have unintended negative consequences for some young people, and those caring for them: "Before, it was illegal to sell to underage teens under existing laws, but not to actually use."

Spent cartridges of nitrous oxide are a litter problem in high-use areas, and users have also been charged with public order offences.  It's a popular party drug, but can be dangerous when used in larger quantities.

Deller says use of the gas among younger teens has been falling, according to latest statistics, but church parents and youthworkers shouldn't be complacent.  

"No child, from any background, whether the church family or not, is immune. So it could very well affect anybody. So it's good to be aware.

"As with all of these things, we would argue that education is the key. Along with legislating, it's something that we all need to be talking about, and we need to be making them aware of the risks so that they can make healthy choices for themselves."

Prescribed use of nitrous oxide is not being criminalised, such as when laughing gas is commonly used by the NHS, for women in labour and delivery wards in the UK.

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