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L.A. county authorities crack down on nitrous oxide


Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 04:23 a.m. HST, Mar 22, 2013

LOS ANGELES » Authorities say the use of nitrous oxide as a recreational drug has grown from a rave party phenomenon to mainstream use, propelled by the ease of social media to reach young people.

They say the drug has spurred fatal car accidents, rapes and teen deaths — all in the name of a temporary high that lasts just a few minutes and costs just a few dollars.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials have zeroed in on the recreational use of the drug since September, cracking down on more than 350 illegal parties, nearly all of which were selling nitrous oxide, or "noz," spokesman Mike Parker said Thursday.

The operations are part of a new social media team set up by the department over the last six months to monitor and identify such illegal activities around the clock. What the team has found is that many of these public posts advertise alcohol and illegal drugs such as nitrous oxide and that their targets are teens.

"They're doing the social media equivalent of standing outside the front doors of a high school at 3 o'clock as school lets out with a megaphone announcing that there'll be drugs, noz and alcohol for children, and then handing out fliers to all the kids that are interested," Parker said.

The gas is legal for dental work and is mixed with oxygen to produce "laughing gas." The food industry uses it in whipped cream containers and it's used as a propellant for racecar drivers.

And these parties can be very lucrative for those provisioning them. Sheriff's deputies are currently tracking one distributor who is making more than $60,000 a month in the bulk sale of nitrous oxide, said Sgt. Glenn Walsh who works in the Sheriff's Department's narcotics bureau.

Sheriff's officials believe they have prevented a least 30 violent and sexual assaults in the last six months because of their efforts to shut down such nitrous oxide-related illegal parties before they happen.

One party was forced to change locations three times in one night, before finally moving outside of the Sheriff's jurisdiction, Parker said. But the department also notifies neighboring departments of the illegal parties when it spots them, Parker said.

Some of the hotspots are unincorporated Los Angeles county and the San Gabriel Valley, where parties are held primarily in homes and warehouses, Parker said.

Part of the problem for law enforcement officers going after the illegal use of nitrous oxide is that its distribution or use as a recreational drug is only a misdemeanor, officials said.

Sheriff's Lt. Rod Armalin said that the department is working on legislation to increase the penalties.

Armalin supervises the team that responds to many of these illegal parties and tries to prevent them from happening.

"Over the past year we've seen an increase in incidents," Armalin said. "It seems like it's really taken off with young people...They're openly advertising, ‘Hey we're going to sell nitrous oxide, and there are going to be children there,' and that's a concern."

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nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
Like the phrase used in the movie Forrest Gump, "Stupid is as stupid does." Outside of parenting or lack thereof, kids coming up today are no different from kids coming up back then. Sad to say but there will always be those monkey-see-monkey-do group who will do anything for fun and excitement including risking their bodies. They feel indestructible so they do all those crazy things until they go over the line. Research has shown that teens lack development in certain areas of their brain and that is why they do what they do. This is part of the argument to raise the legal driving age. Teenagers have a different mindset which make for dangerous driving and other behaviors. We can't blame it all on the parents. It's part of the developmental stage they are going through. No matter what parents do some of these kids will do whatever they want.
on March 22,2013 | 07:14AM
NotNasti wrote:
This is why law enforcement's argument against marijuana decriminalization/legalization doesn't hold water. Even if you are able to keep teens from smoking pot, you can't keep them from experimenting with mood/mind altering substances. They will find a way. From toddlers who spin around until they get dizzy, to the octogenarian who drinks coffee at McDonald's, human beings have always and continue engage in mind altering activities. Pot is a much safer drug than alcohol, ecstasy, meth, cocaine, nitrous, oxy, vicodine, you name it.
on March 22,2013 | 08:07AM
copperwire9 wrote:
Absolutely true.
on March 22,2013 | 06:03PM
loquaciousone wrote:
on March 22,2013 | 09:06AM
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