The minister of Hanham Baptist Church has highlighted his concerns that there is a growing problem of substance abuse locally.
The Rev Peter Cook has written to local councillors and the police following a recent litter pick carried out by church members during which a number of supersize canisters of ‘Fastgas’ were found. He also says that more drug paraphernalia is being found around the church.
Nitrous oxide, also known as ‘laughing gas’ or ‘nos’, is one of most widely used recreational drugs amongst young people. The canisters are often specially-designed and legally sold to the catering industry for whipped cream.
Nitrous oxide is said to provide a short burst of euphoria but can cause paralysis and even death if inhaled excessively.
Rev Cook said: “There have regularly been numbers of the small silver nitrous oxide capsules for many years, but this takes this substance abuse to a whole new level. These cylinders are quite expensive, suggesting this is not an individual casual use, but someone deliberately ordering them. It is hard to think that an individual is consuming the gas at this level, and one can but wonder if this is a much more organised form of abuse.
“We have also regularly found drug paraphernalia around the church, including the small cylinders and cannabis bags but recently there has been an increase of such finds, and most concerningly burnt silver foil, suggesting harder drugs are also being consumed.
“This problem around the church is not new but seems to be a growing problem. In the past there was an issue with dealing taking place, drawing in other young people, and I fear this is now happening again.
“Although abusing nitrous oxide isn’t illegal, there are potentially life-threatening dangers involved with its abuse, and there is research pointing it to being a gateway drug leading to the abuse of more dangerous, illegal, substances.
“I recognise that it is impossible to prevent such abuse, but this seems to be spiralling into a much more serious problem and I believe something needs to be done to discourage this abuse before Hanham begins to reap more serious issues from a drug-dealing culture.”
Speaking at Hanham Abbots Parish Council’s meeting this week PC Lee Humphreys said it is not currently an offence to possess nitrous oxide for recreational use but it is illegal to supply it for such use.
He urged people to keep reporting any incidents of concern to the police who can do ‘test purchases’ if there is enough intelligence in one area.