Fears are rising that a new youth trend for inhaling potentially lethal nitrous oxide gas is spreading after more empty canisters were found in Belfast.
The PSNI said it had found a number of small, empty, purple and silver gas canisters in the King George playing fields area in east Belfast, after being alerted by residents and councillors.
"We are concerned that young people may be using these canisters in a dangerous way. We do not want to see anyone harmed through reckless actions, so we are asking parents to be vigilant and speak to their children about substance abuse and warn them of the dangers," the PSNI posted on social media. "If you come across any canisters of this nature please dispose of them safely. If you require further advice or have concerns, please contact us on 101."
Nitrous oxide, also known as 'laughing gas', is an anaesthetic gas used for pain relief.
But it poses a serious risk of users falling unconscious or suffocating from a lack of oxygen.
Heavy regular use of nitrous oxide can lead to a deficiency of vitamin B12 and to serious nerve damage. People across the UK have died from taking the gas, which is usually inhaled using a balloon.
The high has been described often as a trance-like experience. Some people get a sensation that they are falling or being lifted up into the sky, and on leaving the trance-like state users often gets the giggles.
East Belfast councillor George Dorrian alerted the police to the latest find.
He said: "I was contacted by residents concerned at groups of young people gathering in King George playing fields.
"I was asked to do a walkabout this morning with a local resident, and we found a number of the small canisters which are being sold online mainly, which pose a risk to those who are using them to inhale.
"I saw earlier in the week these are being found in big numbers in north Belfast and we should be doing all we can to make parents and kids aware of the dangers of inhaling the gas.
"If anyone has any information about those selling please let the police know. Equally, though if any kids are concerned after they have taken this stuff they should seek advice and help."
Mr Dorrian said since he alerted police and posted on social media on the matter he received numerous alerts from people in Dundonald and Bangor who had also found numbers of empty canisters in public spaces.
Earlier this week north Belfast councillor Paul McCusker posted on social media an image of concealed and unused laughing gas.
He tweeted: "Thanks to the resident in Ardoyne for passing boxes of unused nitrous oxide canisters after finding them hidden on the street. They will now be discarded, remember while you think inhaling this gas is good fun, it can be harmful to your health. Think before doing this."