Health bosses have issued a stark warning over the use of so-called hippy crack - with one Bolton charity warning 'one bad hit and it's death'.

Last weekend Bolton’s beauty spots were left in a state as the remains of canisters of nitrous oxide, known to some as “hippy crack” or “balloons”, were littered across the area.

People were spotted inhaling the drug at popular spots such as Lower Rivington Reservoir and Moss Bank Park, just metres away from families and children.

It has appeared to become increasingly popular with younger people and is typically used as an addition to drinking. It is not illegal to have and there is no penalty for possession.

Dr Tracey Myton, consultant in addiction psychiatry for Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Nitrous oxide is a gas, the use of which seems to be increasingly popular with young people.

“It can initially cause feelings of well-being and relaxation but then can also cause people to feel dizzy, anxious and hear or see things which are unreal and frightening.

“The main danger after taking nitrous oxide is that these altered feelings and perceptions may lead to careless risk-taking behaviour, falls and accidents.

"Unfortunately it is common to see these opened canisters around the streets in Bolton.

“Young people sometimes drink alcohol then use nitrous oxide. This is particularly dangerous as intoxication with both substances together increases the risk of accidents or losing consciousness.”

360-Bolton’s Young Person (under 19’s) Substance Misuse Service, which offers support to young people who use drugs or alcohol, said many young people were not aware of the drug’s dangers.

A spokesman said: “It’s a very social drug for young people, they enjoy using it and don’t think it’s a problem.

“It’s so cheap and easily available as it’s not technically illegal, which is why it’s common for younger people.

“The problem is that it’s usually mixed with other drugs which makes it more dangerous.

“Risk increases when it’s mixed, and because it’s inhaled this can cause an instant death.

“It doesn’t cause many deaths which is why some think it’s safe, but it often causes serious brain damage. It’s seen as quite a low-risk drug but it isn’t ­- one bad hit and it's instant death.”

To contact 360-Bolton, email or call 01204 462444.