Wicklow Sinn Fein TD John Brady and Cllr Dermot ‘Daisy’ O’Brien have expressed alarm at the rocketing use of Nitrous Oxide by young people across Wicklow. They expressed their concern following the discovery of over a dozen large canisters of the gas which is commonly known as ‘laughing gas’ in a children’s playground in Ballywaltrim in Bray.
Deputy Brady said “Following concerns expressed to me by local people of children as young as 12 using Nitrous Oxide at the playground in Ballywaltrim in Bray, myself and my colleague Cllr Dermot ‘Daisy’ O’Brien visited the area. We were shocked to see up to a dozen large empty canisters of Nitrous Oxide which is sometimes called ‘Hippy Crack’ or ‘Laughing Gas’ thrown around the area.
“I have had people from right across the County expressing similar concerns too, so it’s not just a localised issue.
“Over the last couple of years we used to see small single use canisters, known as silver bullets, discarded around the place. Now they have been replaced by large canisters. which have super doses in them.
“Those large canisters are being sold on the street and online for €40 each. Unscrupulous dealers are making vast profits from the sale of nitrous oxide.
“The widespread use of nitrous oxide is resulting in antisocial behaviour, litter, and it is damaging to people’s health, particularly for children who are still developing.
“A young person taking Nitrous Oxide is playing Russian roulette, because they do not know the effect that the gas is going to have on them until they take it.
A recent report published by the HSE shows that the gas causes a range of sensory issues in patients who have presented, including a numbness in their hands, feet and extremities, serious issues with balance, problems with their heart rate, and mental health issues.
“Immediate action needs to be taken by the government on this important issue. Sinn Féin have brought forward legislation in the Oireachtas that will regulate the sale of Nitrous Oxide to commercial use only. Currently the gas can be openly purchased online by anyone.
“This is like legislation introduced in Holland where authorities are regulating the use of nitrous oxide outside the medical and catering industries.
“This Bill will not criminalise young people for simple possession of nitrous oxide, however it would give the Gardaí the power to seize the canisters.
Cllr O’Brien feels that we shouldn’t underestimate the risks associated with Nitrous Oxide. “It would be easy to dismiss the issue or downplay it because ‘it’s only laughing gas’ or ‘it only lasts a few seconds’ and at the same time it’s easy to understand why young people are drawn to it because it is simple to consume, and the effects are instant!
“We also have companies who appear to be marketing Fastgas by highlighting the positive effects of misuse and merely referencing the legitimate industrial use in the small print! They have QR codes on the canisters which bring you to the website where you are offered Free shipping, discreetly packaged, and delivered, high quality gas.
“We have called for this before but it’s worth restating that conversations need to be had at Govt level, Community level and within families. Access and availability are issues that must be tackled, information and awareness about potential risks must be shared widely and we must also have open and honest conversations with young people about what draws them into the world of substance use.
The last thing we need is the hypocrisy of adults demonising young people for making uninformed choices about their substance use.” Deputy Brady concluded “I have raised the issue with the Garda and asked them to increase their presence in the area to help stop the usage of the gas and the antisocial behaviour that stems from it. I would also appeal to parents to be mindful of their children and to have a conversation with them about the dangers of Nitrous Oxide.”