You may have seen the discarded metal canisters on your way to work or when walking through the park in Herefordshire during lockdown.

These bullet-shaped vessels are the empty shells of laughing gas, the second most popular drug, after cannabis, among young people. Inhaling it from a balloon has surged since lockdown, but its experts say its name shelters deadly potential. This week experts have warned of the dangers of nitrous oxide, saying it is a harmful and potentially lethal substance, and should be better regulated.

ā€œThe frequent presence of silver canisters on our streets (even during the Covid-19 lockdown) is a visible mark of the increasing incidence of nitrous oxide (N2O) or laughing gas misuse,ā€ warns aĀ blogpostĀ from pharmaceutical experts in theĀ British Medical JournalĀ (BMJ).

The supply of N2O as a recreational drug is illegal under the UKā€™s Psychoactive Substances Act 2016,however, this has not acted as a deterrent in illicit drug use.

The misuse of laughing gas is ā€œno laughing matter.ā€ Its misuse in high doses has been associated with dose-dependent psychiatrichaematological, and neurologicaladverse effects and even death. Adverse effects include pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosisskin hyperpigmentation, and more serious neurological damage such as paraplegia