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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Louise Burne

Sinn Féin to bring forward legislation to tackle nitrous oxide abuse among young people

Sinn Féin has announced that it will bring forward legislation on nitrous oxide or "silver bullets" to prevent young people from abusing the drug.

Mark Ward, the party’s spokesperson on mental health, warned that young people are playing "Russian Roulette" by taking laughing gas as the long term effects are unknown.

A recent report from the HSE’s Adolescent Addiction Service showed that 22 per cent of young people admitted to taking Nitrous Oxide. This, the report states, was a 175 per cent increase compared to 2021.

READ MORE - Woman ends up in a wheelchair due to 'laughing gas addiction' as she urges caution among peers

Nitrous Oxide is more commonly known as "laughing gas". It has many industrial uses and is used clinically as an anaesthetic gas for pain-relieving properties.

It causes people to feel giddy and can lead to a loss of balance or disorientation.

The drug has become increasingly common for recreational use and is available on the streets in small silver canisters.

Deputy Ward said that his legislation would regulate the sale of Nitrous Oxide for commercial use only.

Mark Ward, Sinn Fein spokesperson on mental health (Collins)

He expressed concern that the drug is now being used in larger quantities and is leading to "antisocial behaviour, litter and damage to people’s health."

"When they first came out, we used to see small single use canisters, known as silver bullets, discarded around the place, but these have been replaced by large canisters which have super doses in them," Mr Ward said.

"Those large canisters are being sold on the street for €40 each. Unscrupulous dealers are making vast profits from the sale of nitrous oxide.

"As recently as December 2022 a neurology specialist at the Mater Hospital warned of an increase in the number of patients suffering severe nerve damage after inhaling nitrous oxide gas.

"Dr Macken reported 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."

Mr Ward said that the legislation he has written is similar to what has been introduced in Holland. The country is regulating the use outside of the medical and catering industries.

His legislation will not make it a criminal offence for people to have nitrous oxide in their possession, but gardaí will be allowed to seize the canisters.

He added: "I am introducing this legislation as the Government have not reacted to this issue with any urgency.

"A young person taking Nitrous Oxide is playing Russian Roulette, because they do not know the effect that gas is going to have on them until they take it."


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