Spread of nitrous oxide among youth a growing concern

by Rose Barrett
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nitrous oxide canisters

Cllr Angela Donnelly says she was totally shocked at the sight of 16 empty nitrous oxide cans at a gate into Hartstown Park in Dublin 15. 

“A local resident told me that there were about ten lads hanging around the area Thursday night and on Friday morning, she came across these empty cans when completing the daily school run. To think that each of the lads had almost two full cans each is frightening”.

Cllr Donnelly warned such substances cans can have “dissociative effects”, can make people feel euphoric and giddy. 

Cllr Angela Donnelly

“Some may feel relaxation, calm and wellbeing, others may get a headache, dizziness or blurred vision. It can also cause a loss of balance and disorientation. For those with asthma, heavy usage can result in tightness in the chest, and cause a frightening shortage of breath. It can irritate the respiratory tract in others. It can cause some to hallucinate and, in some cases, create a change in blood pressure or sudden death due to a lack of oxygen.

“The repercussions can be fatal,” she noted. “Each person will react differently to the gas. Effects can be based on a number of factors depending on; how much is taken and the dose which sometimes can be unknown, personal factors such as the persons size and mental health. Also whether the person has consumed the substance before or with other drugs, alcohol or prescription meds.”

Nitrous oxide is not currently a controlled substance under Ireland’s Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. It is used to reduce anxiety and stress for women in labour but sadly, has become prevalent in dance and rave parties in recent years where users spray aerosols into balloons or airtight contrainers, and then inhale.

Nitrous  oxide can be legally sold for catering (eg cream whipping or ice cream machines and industrial/agricultural purposes. It is, however, illegal to sell nitrous oxide for human consumption. 

“Empty cans of nitrous oxide can be seen all over Dublin 15 and further afield,” warned Cllr Donnelly. “But the sight of so many that were used by a relatively small group is truly shocking. 

“I have passed this information onto Blanchardstown Garda Station asking for more patrols around the park. I have also asked if we could organise an educational piece for students in Dublin 15. This is a growing problem, and a generation of young people are growing up using this gas for recreational purposes without knowing the risks they are subjecting themselves to!”

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