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Nitrous oxide goes mainstream: Southern California sees surge in quick-and-cheap drug

Authorities say the use of nitrous oxide as a recreational drug has grown from a rave party phenomenon to mainstream use in recent years.

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 spokesman Mike Parker said Thursday that the department has zeroed in on the recreational use of the drug. Sheriff's officials have cracked down on more than 350 illegal parties since September, nearly all of which were selling nitrous oxide.

The operations are part of a new social media team set up by the department to monitor and identify such illegal activities when they're announced online