A PREMIER League star has become the first footballer to go to rehab for an addiction to laughing gas.
He will be followed by other addicted stars, as sources warn that usage is rife among elite players despite it now being illegal.
The player was admitted to a medical centre after his worried family asked his club for help.
Police had stopped a car in which he was a passenger and found dozens of canisters in the footwell.
The incident a few weeks before Christmas did not lead to police action as they could not prove who they belonged to.
But a source said: “His family became aware and asked the club for help.
“The player was told if he wanted to save his career, he had to go to a specialist residential centre and get some help.
“He’s basically undergoing detox in the same way you would if you were hooked on alcohol or any other drug.
“He’s the first Premier League footballer to be treated for addiction to nitrous oxide but, given how rife its use is among players, it’s unlikely he’ll be the last.”
Nitrous oxide, also known as “hippy crack”, comes in canisters — sometimes super-sized — that are used to fill balloons, which are then inhaled repeatedly.
It gives a quick high but comes with the risk of heart attacks, strokes and brain damage, while some users have died after taking it.
Prolonged use can also lead to depression, memory loss, incontinence, hallucinations and nerve damage.
The law was changed last November to make it a controlled Class C drug, with possession for inhalation now a criminal offence.
However, a source said dozens are heavy users, with many starting in lockdown.
Routine drugs tests are also unlikely to detect it.
The source went on: “One Premier League star recently celebrated his birthday and splashed out on almost £10,000 of canisters.
“Loads take them because they can’t get caught with it in their system.
“It’s happening at all clubs and some of those using are very well-known players. I’m not sure any of them know it’s now a Class C drug.
“No footballer would dream of having a stash of cannabis in their house, but many have a supply of balloons for them and their pals.
“They seem to have no idea just how dangerous using it can be.”
Websites sell a canister and nitrous oxide for a few quid, after the buyer confirms it is for food production and they are over 18.
Previously users would buy single-shot canisters but many have switched to super-sized tubes delivering 80 times the usual dose.
Stephen Ream, of solvent abuse and drugs charity Re-Solv, said: “The new large canisters are a real worry. One young man we’ve been supporting was using ten a day.
“When you are doing the little ones, you know how many you’re getting through, but when you use a big one, you lose track.”
In 2022, Kayleigh Burns, 16, of Liverpool, died after inhaling gas at a party in Leamington Spa.
She had complained of feeling “too hot” before she collapsed.
Sport science professor and former FA performance head John Brewer warned players to steer clear as it can reduce levels of vitamin B12.
He said: “B12 is essential for nerve function.
“So if you are a top-level footballer trying to make skilful movements and pass a ball effectively, you don’t want your nerves to be damaged in any way because you need that peripheral ability to sense movements.”
He also said that it can cause anaemia, which reduces stamina levels.
STARS ON THE GAS
A STRING of Premier League players have been caught using nitrous oxide.
In 2013, then-Spurs star Kyle Walker was pictured inhaling it.
In 2018, Arsenal stars Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Matteo Guendouzi were filmed taking it at a pre-season bash.
The following year, Jack Grealish, then at Aston Villa, was snapped inhaling from a balloon.
Last year, Everton midfielder Dele Alli was pictured at a do surrounded by gas canisters and alcohol.
Villa’s Leon Bailey also filmed himself inhaling in his car after partying all night last March.
None of these players are the ace in rehab.