Sinn Féin Cllr Dermot ‘Daisy’ O’Brien has raised concerns about the increase in popularity of laughing gas as a recreational drug in communities across Wicklow.
“As Covid-19 restrictions ease and people return to socialising we are receiving numerous reports of extensive use of this substance” according to O’Brien.
“Also known as “whippets” Nitrous Oxide is a colourless gas found in pressurised metal canisters commonly used in the medical field and commercial industry (for example whipping cream) which means that it is legal and very easy to get your hands on. I have been told that you can get a dispenser online for under €40 and similarly a pack of 50 whippets canisters for €50″
“My concern is that people are so excited about moving out of Covid restrictions that laughing gas has become an easy option for people looking for a short term high.”
“Many of us are aware of the occasions where someone inhales helium from a balloon to change their voice for a short period of time. Laughing gas is often consumed in the same way but with very different effects. This is not just another “good fun” outlet for people who are socialising.”
Speaking on the issue Cllr Grace McManus said “When we see a spike in any recreational drug use, it is important that we zoom in and look at the specific harms of the substance, raise awareness of these harms and manage the fallout. It is also important to zoom out and look at why we are seeing such an increase in the first place.
Covid-19 has had a profound effect on our well-being. There is disconnection, financial pressures, fears about the future, things that we know can have negative impacts on our mental health. This fact is not inherently bad news; it’s what we do now that counts. Fostering well-being through supporting community groups, spaces, projects, ensuring mental health supports are available, funding sports clubs etc are protective factors, and act as an antidote to the wounds of covid-19. I think taking this overall health perspective on the issue of laughing gas is vitally important to reduce the harm, in tandem with promoting specific awareness about the dangers of the substance itself.”
Cllr Dermot O’Brien added “Nitrous Oxide slows down your brain and body’s responses. It can cause feelings of euphoria, relaxation and fits of giggles while also creating hallucinations, severe headaches and dizziness. People have reported intense feelings of paranoia and not being able to think straight. When people perceive a substance to be harmless there is a danger that they develop an attitude towards it which ignores any risks. Misuse of any substance is risky, mixing one drug with another drug is extra risky such as alcohol and laughing gas. We want people to understand what the risks are and to be aware that heavy use of Nitrous Oxide can cause nerve damage and increased risk of falling unconscious or suffocating. This is not a new drug but the increase in its popularity requires our attention. We believe that there should be a directive to place a health warning on these products about their non-medical or industrial use.”
Deputy John Brady said: “The Minister for Health needs to immediately start an awareness programme on the dangers of using nitrous oxide as an inhalant. The misuse of Nitrous Oxide which are 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 across Wicklow.”
“In May a fifteen-year-old youth from Tallaght sadly died at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin from what his parents believe was as a result of the side effects of taking the lethal drug. The Government must do more to warn people of the dangers of taking nitrous oxide. A national campaign warning of the dangers of the drug needs to be launched before more lives are lost.”