Parents warned of potentially deadly 'hippy crack' drugs craze in Edinburgh and Lothian parks

Growing numbers of young people across Edinburgh are feared to be risking their lives abusing potentially-deadly nitrous oxide gas - dubbed “hippy crack”.

A string of images have appeared in recent weeks on social media highlighting the widespread problem.

Fresh pictures published last weekend showed discarded canisters of so-called hippy crack which gives abusers an instant high.

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But abuse of nitrous oxide, which is legitimately used in health care and by chefs, can lead to serious side effects and even death.

Cops were called to a 12-hour party where boozy teenagers flouted social distancing rules to get high on hippie crack and deodorant.Cops were called to a 12-hour party where boozy teenagers flouted social distancing rules to get high on hippie crack and deodorant.
Cops were called to a 12-hour party where boozy teenagers flouted social distancing rules to get high on hippie crack and deodorant.
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And concerns have been further heightened following the death of a Dublin schoolboy last month.

Alex Ryan, 15, was found slumped in the street and died in hospital two hours later despite emergency treatment.

His father later appealed for youths to stop abusing nitrous oxide, warning they were unaware of the consequences.

Fears of another tragedy are mounting following the weekend which saw hordes of teens gather in parks – with evidence of hippy crack abuse left behind.

Lothian MSP and Scottish Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs has warned the extent of the abuse of the gas was “extremely concerning” and revealed that he plans to raise the matter in Holyrood.

Mr Briggs said: “Nitrous oxide is a very dangerous substance whose use for recreational purposes is legally prohibited. It can cause strokes and heart attacks and even death in the most extreme cases.

“I will be raising this matter with the Scottish Government and asking what efforts it is making to educate young people in Lothian about the risks of using it and how it can do more to tackle those supplying it to youngsters.”

‘Extremely concerning’

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The drug, also known as laughing gas and often inhaled from a balloon or direct from a canister, is illegal if used recreationally.

Following relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, teens and groups of young people flocked to parks and other public spaces.

While the majority were well behaved, evidence was later discovered of drink, drug, solvent and nitrous oxide abuse.

A number of canisters were left behind following a party in Burdiehouse Burn Valley Park where around 50 teens had gathered. The rubbish left was covered with the gas canisters and deodorant cans as some also abused solvents for a quick high.

Last week, reports emerged of parks in Midlothian and East Lothian also being left strewn with the tell-tale silver gas canisters, which can be bought for as little as £1 each.

Just like so-called legal highs, hippy crack abuse is hard to police as it is widely available despite being illegal to buy for recreational use – and there is currently no penalty for possession of nitrous oxide unless you are in prison.

Revealing his plan to raise the matter in Holyrood, Mr Briggs added: “These reports of young people misusing nitrous oxide in Lothian are extremely concerning.”

Fears over the abuse of nitrous oxide were voiced as Nicola Sturgeon threatened to change coronavirus guidelines on movements and gatherings into law if Scots do not obey strict control measures.

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The weekend saw a number of large gatherings across the Lothians which police had to break-up.

Scotland-wide, officers made more than 1,000 arrests over the weekend and issued nearly 800 dispersal notices for lockdown breaches on Saturday alone.

Confirming the arrest numbers on Twitter, Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said: “With more people out and about, crime rates have been increasing too.“@policescotland made over 1000 arrests during the weekend. Please keep yourself safe, and behave responsibly.”

The figures prompted the First Minister to warn new laws will be passed if the public continues to contravene the rules.

She said there were 797 dispersals by police, five times higher than the figure from the previous Saturday.

Traffic statistics from the weekend were a “cause for concern”, the First Minister said, with road use on Sunday up by 70% on the previous Sunday and a 60 per cent increase on Saturday from the week before.

200 parking fines in East Lothian

In East Lothian, more than 200 parking fines were issued over the weekend as people flocked to beaches despite council car parks there remaining closed.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Let me be very blunt here – it’s very hard to see how all of that could have been caused by local residents or by people travelling a reasonable distance to meet loved ones.

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“It’s worth being clear, in fact I have a duty to be clear with you, that if there is continued evidence of even a minority not abiding by these guidelines and travelling unnecessarily, if people meet up in larger groups or if they’re making journeys which risk spreading this virus, we will have to put these restrictions on group size and travel distance into law,” she said.

“We won’t hesitate to do that if we think it’s necessary for the collective safety and wellbeing of the population.”

She added: “The reason I’m stressing this, the real danger that we still face, is not because I want to be imposing these restrictions, but it is because the progress we’ve made so far in tackling Covid-19 is simply not guaranteed and it is not irreversible.”

The First Minister said cases could still increase, leading to a loss of life and relaxed lockdown measures being reimposed.

The First Minister also gave the latest Covid-19 figures for Scotland.

A total of 2,363 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, up by one from 2,362 on Sunday, Ms Sturgeon said.

Meanwhile, the boss of one of Scotland’s biggest care home groups has branded the move to investigate deaths in the sector “disgusting.”

Tony Banks is the chairman and founder of the Balhousie group which has 26 care homes across Scotland with more than 900 residents and criticised the move, claiming the industry has been singled out.

The decision was taken by the head of Scotland’s prosecution service, the Lord Advocate, and announced in a statement to MSPs last month.