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Laughing gas is serious business

Nothing seems to be safe anymore.

What could possibly be harmful regarding cans of whipped cream — other than spraying whipped cream all over the countertop instead of the intended piece of pie?

Skyline High School officials inadvertently found out recently while trying to figure out why so many of the empty metal cannisters were winding up by the school's tennis courts.

Drug agents informed them that the whipped cream cannisters have nitrous oxide cartridges inside to propel out the whipped cream. Teens are inhaling the nitrous oxide, which is referred to as laughing gas when used at the dentist's office, to get high. The students were going out to the tennis courts between periods to "take a hit," drug agents said. The street name for the whipped cream canisters is crackers.

In addition to school grounds, nitrous oxide is also being used regularly at underground rave parties.

Rave parties — which are comprised mostly of those in the 15 to 23 age group — are disasters waiting to happen. They are activities shrouded in secrecy that begin at 2 o'clock in the morning and are associated with drugs.

Ecstasy is the rave drug of choice. Ravers like the way it stimulates the senses. In reality it's very dangerous, increasing the user's heart rate and blood pressure. The drug also affects sleep, memory and the ability to reason.

Add nitrous oxide to the rave/ecstasy mix and it just makes a dangerous situation even more dangerous.

Many who inhale nitrous oxide don't realize how harmful the drug can be. Inhaling nitrous oxide is similar to sniffing paint or glue, according to Sheriff's Sgt. Darren Carr.

In 1996, a man found dead in an Ogden yard suffered an overdose of nitrous oxide. A police report said the man's body was found lying next to a 4-foot bottle of nitrous oxide, with the valve cap in his hand.

And in 1992, laughing gas was blamed in the death of three young men in California. Police found the victims slumped in a pickup in the Chatsworth area of the San Fernando Valley. The windows of their truck were closed. Alongside the victims was a 4-foot-long cannister of nitrous oxide with the valve open.

What's the best way to combat this scourge?

Parents are the key to making their children aware of just how dangerous nitrous oxide and other drugs can be. The home is the first and best place of defense in combatting drugs and other societal ills.

As has become evident, participating in any kind of activity involving laughing gas or other drug is hazardous and is rife with serious consequences.

School officials also need to be aware of unusual activities on their campuses. Parental and school vigilance is critical.