POLICE have warned people not to take legal highs after around 70 deadly "laughing gas" canisters were found scattered across a car park.
The small capsules, which contain the potentially-fatal psychoactive gas, were spotted strewn around a gravelled area on Peachfield Road in Malvern earlier this week, along with a number of balloons.
Nitrous oxide - also known as laughing gas - is commonly inhaled from a balloon as a 'legal high', with users experiencing a short feeling of euphoria.
However, the drug can also cause dizziness and an inability to think straight, while drug advice charity Frank warns it can cause death through lack of oxygen.
Chief Inspector Jane Francis, of West Mercia Police, said: "Nitrous oxide is a psychoactive substance and falls under the Psychoactive Substances Act, which became law in May of this year.
"It is now illegal to supply these substances, previously known as so-called ‘legal highs’, for human consumption which includes giving them away for free to friends and offenders could face years in prison.
"It is also an offence to possess with intent to supply, offer to supply, produce, import or export psychoactive substances for human consumption.
"West Mercia Police will take action where we find people committing these offences. Punishments range from a prohibition notice, which is a formal warning, to seven years in prison.
"We would urge people to never even consider taking them. There are very high risks involved as you can never be sure of exactly what they contain, the side effects they could have or what long-term damage they could cause. They can and do kill."
The Malvern Hills Conservators, which owns the small car park, said one of its wardens found the canisters and has since cleared them away.
However it said it cannot be certain if the drug was inhaled at the parking spot, close to the junction with Longridge Road, or if the bottles were discarded there.
Conservators director Duncan Bridges said: "We do suffer considerable volumes of fly tipping and rubbish being left about, it is something that takes up a lot of staff time - particularly for the wardens.
"Of course they [legal highs] are not permitted on Conservators' land."
This type of capsule is intended to be used as a whipping agent in a whipped cream dispenser, and the canisters on Peachfield Road were found alongside a box labelled 'Mosa Cream Charger'.
Amanda Smith, community services manager for Malvern Hills District Council, said: "So-called legal highs are not safe and are certainly not legal and if anyone has any evidence relating to this incident then they should contact the police by dialling 101.
"Anyone who uses such substances is gambling with their life as they can and do kill. The Malvern Hills Community Safety Partnership has been working with schools over the last few years to get the message out about the dangers of so-called legal highs and we’ll continue to do so."
Anyone who has any information about illegal drug activity can report it to police by calling 101, alternatively information can be passed on anonymously via the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or by going to crimestoppers-uk.org
Local and national services which provide counselling and treatment can be found on the FRANK website talktofrank.com/need-support