The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has begun cracking down on illegal use of nitrous oxide, the popular chemical used to propel race cars and used by dentists during oral procedures.

According to authorities, the use of nitrous oxide as a recreational drug has become more and more common among teenagers. What began as something used somewhat rarely by ravers is now being distributed at many local parties.

Since September of 2012, law enforcement agencies in the Los Angeles area have broken up over 350 parties in which nitrous oxide, or “noz,” has been illegally sold to minors. Much of the recent proliferation of nitrous oxide usage is due to social media’s unique ability to reach large numbers of people with relatively little effort.

Nitrous oxide use has been directly linked to automobile accidents, rapes, assaults and other violent crimes despite the fact that the high only lasts a few minutes. Since the authorities began monitoring social media back in September, Sheriff’s Department officials believe they have prevented at least 30 violent and sexual assaults.

The efforts of the Sheriff’s Department have seen many parties where nitrous oxide was to be available shut down before they even began. Another party was forced to move locations three times in one night, due to Sheriff’s Deputies’ interference, before finally moving outside of their jurisdiction.

Officials are keen to note, though, that even when the suspected offenders move out of their jurisdiction, the Department is quick to notify other local law enforcement offices who will be able to continue.

One of the biggest setbacks that law enforcement has encountered in their fight against illegal nitrous oxide usage however, is that the charge for using this drug is currently a misdemeanor.