Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen has written to health bosses requesting data to help her understand the impact of the drug Nitrous Oxide across County Durham and Darlington.
The PCC recently wrote to Home Secretary Suella Braverman calling for the urgent publication of new research by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs’ (ACMD) on the health and societal impact of the so-called ‘laughing gas’ drug.
As the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ (APCC) National Lead on Addictions and Substance Misuse, the Commissioner is keen for both PCCs and forces to have more information to help them respond more effectively to anti-social behaviour linked to the drug.
As part of her Police and Crime Plan pledge to devise multi-agency strategies to tackle drug harm in the community and fund prevention initiatives, the PCC has now written to Sue Jacques, Chief Executive of County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, requesting information and data on the presentation of Nitrous Oxide in local hospitals and healthcare facilities to help inform her safety work.
It comes as worrying new research from police forces nationally suggests Nitrous Oxide is increasingly being identified as a key factor in road traffic incidents including serious and fatal accidents.
Commissioner Allen said: “Pressure is mounting on the Government to ban the recreational use of this drug and help police deal more robustly with the problem. What this could potentially entail and the extent of any enforcement powers will remain unclear until the ACMD publishes its review.
“However, in my capacity as Commissioner and as Joint National Lead for Addictions and Substance Misuse, I am keen to gather the facts and understand the hazards of this drug on young people’s health in the eyes of the professionals at the very sharp end of responding to it.
“Reducing drug-related harm across our communities is a top priority for me and I have made it clear how important partnership working is in the development of these solutions. Before we can take any meaningful action to prevent the use of this drug within our communities, we first have to appreciate the nature of the problem and target our plans appropriately.”
Following consultation with other partners, Commissioner Allen said she had been made aware of increased requests from schools across the force area for education sessions around drug harm.
However, referrals to drug and alcohol services locally are presently not reflecting national evidence suggesting Nitrous Oxide is the second most prevalent recreational drug used by young people, behind cannabis.
The PCC has invited local NHS colleagues to provide further information and statistics that could help inform the future approach to Nitrous Oxide and support the case for further preventative progammes.
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