Cumbria Police have issued a warning as a “large number” of nitrous oxide canisters have been found in Whitehaven.

Almost 200 empty canisters of ‘laughing gas’, as it is more commonly known, were discovered in the Bransty area and handed in to police on Tuesday.

It comes after a drugs amnesty at a recent music festival in Whitehaven, where scores of canisters were handed over.

The substance is being inhaled by young people across the borough and police say its use is increasing.

Posting on the Copeland Focus Facebook page, Cumbria Police said: “Please be aware of what your children are up to, where they are and who they are with. We can work together to keep our young people safe.”

Graham Roberts, who represents Bransty on Cumbria County Council said he would be contacting Colin Cox, director of public health at the county council, calling for an investigation into the issue.

He said: “It’s a highly unusual find. I’m concerned about it.

“Canisters of any kind can explode if they are subject to misuse. They could give themselves a fatal heart attack. It could be lethal.

“It’s dangerous. If you have to have gas during a dental procedure you have to go into hospital to have a qualified anaesthetist administer it.

“This is a very serious matter.”

Carl Walmsley, who represents the Whitehaven South ward on Copeland Council said empty canisters had also been discovered on the Mirehouse estate.

He is urging youngsters to think about the consequences of their actions.

“What can be deemed funny for a few minutes to these kids could really be damaging their health long term. A lack of oxygen can occur when inhaling the gas which could and has recently lead to death.

“I really hope it’s a stupid phase that passes by quickly.”

Coun Walmsley added that people should stop referring to it as ‘laughing gas’ because this makes it sound harmless.

Leigh Williams, CEO of the drug advisory charity CADAS, said the issue was “rife”.

“It’s a volatile substance - you can’t build up tolerance to it. The 1,000th time you take it could be the time it harms you.

“It’s used by professionals in a professional setting for a reason.”

Nitrous oxide slows down the brain and the body’s responses. Inhaling the substance can cause fits of giggles and laughter – hence the nickname ‘laughing gas’.

It can also cause sound distortions and hallucinations, severe headaches, dizziness and feelings of paranoia.

Mixing nitrous oxide with alcohol is especially dangerous as it can increase the risks associated with both substances and can lead to an increased risk of accidents.