Over the last number of weeks, I have been contacted by constituents who are concerned about the reported increase in use of Nitrous Oxide (or ‘laughing gas’)

People in Dublin West have reported seeing a large of number of discarded canisters scattered in public parks. There was also coverage of this on RTE and The Journal.

I asked the Minister for Health about what his Department is doing to make people aware of the dangers associated with nitrous oxide. You can see his response below.

Roderic O’Gorman

To ask the Minister for Health the work being carried out by his Department to educate young persons on the dangers of nitrous oxide abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

The Government is committed to a health-led approach to drug use and to developing harm reduction interventions for at risk groups, as set out in the national drugs strategy Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery, a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2020.

The Department of Health works with the HSE to raise awareness of the dangers associated with drugs through the Drugs.ie website. The site provides a comprehensive range of information and supports related to substance use.

Recently, the HSE launched Know the Score, the first national evidence-based resource on alcohol and drugs for senior cycle students. It aims to engage young people in exploring and considering a wide range of topics related to the risks associated with alcohol and drugs.

The HSE monitors trends and considers the need for new material in relation to drugs based on national reports through stakeholder networks and recommendations from other countries. Emerging trend content is published through the Drugs.ie website and affiliated social media channels.

The Department of Health, as part of the introduction of the Health Diversion Programme, is providing €100,000 in 2020 to develop a national harm reduction campaign to raise awareness of the risks associated with drug use. This will include the use of club drugs, festival drug use and new trends. While this campaign was originally scheduled for the latter part of 2020, this timetable may need to be revised given the draw on resources in dealing with Covid 19.

Nitrous oxide has been raised by the HSE as an emerging issue at different points this year. The HSE warned young people regarding the danger of using nitrous oxide (sometimes referred to as ‘laughing gas’) through a media release in January. New content was added to Drugs.ie outlining the effects and risks associated with nitrous oxide.

Parents play an important role in educating young people on the risks regarding substance abuse. Evidence based content is available on Drugs.ie regarding nitrous oxide, as well as a HSE booklet providing advice for parents on how to talk to young people about the risks associated with drug and alcohol use.

We must be especially vigilant in protecting young people from threats to their health and wellbeing from misuse of  substances, including nitrous oxide. I believe that a multi-faceted approach, involving online resources, in-school interventions and targeted awareness campaigns, can minimise the risk of substance misuse among young people.