Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid-West Mark Ward has asked the Minister for Health Simon Harris to create an awareness programme on the dangers of using nitrous oxide as an inhalant after a visible increase in its use. There has been a large amount of drug litter connected to nitrous oxide being discovered in in the Clondalkin and Lucan areas.
Teachta Ward is a former addiction worker and director of the local drug and alcohol task force.
Speaking on receipt of the response to a parliamentary question, Teachta Ward said.
“The misuse of nitrous oxide which is commonly known as silver bullets has become a widespread problem since the outbreak of Covid-19. There has been a spike in the number of discarded canisters of nitrous oxide in parks and public areas.
“In my role as a Director of the Clondalkin Drugs and Alcohol Task Force I became aware of nitrous oxide about two years ago. However, the level of use has seriously increased
“You only have to walk through the parks and estates in Dublin Mid-West and see the discarded ‘silver bullets’ and balloons; the nitrous oxide is released into the balloon and then inhaled. This causes a shortness of breath that produces a very quick high for the user.
“The problem is that kids are playing Russian Roulette with this substance and do not know how it will affect them until they take it. These ‘silver bullets’ are used in the catering trade and can be bought for cheap online. Unscrupulous dealers are then selling them on for big profits.
“We need an awareness programme on the dangers of nitrous oxide rolled out in schools across Dublin.
“I welcome the response of the Minister of the introduction of the Health Diversion Programme it is needed, but quite frankly €100,000 to develop a national harm reduction campaign will not go far enough.
“The Department of Health works with the HSE to raise awareness of the dangers associated with drugs through the Drugs.ie website. However, having visited the drugs.ie website there is no mention of nitro oxide in the solvent section. I have written to the Minister and asked for awareness of the dangers of Nitrous Oxide be included on Drugs.ie.
“During the Covid restrictions there is limited community infrastructure in place for children such as youth clubs, GAA and soccer teams are all closed, and kids are at a loose end. My fear is that some of these children have started to experiment with nitrous oxide and have come into contact with drug dealers for the first time.”