Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Question 769 – Medicinal products [nitrous oxide] [54578/23].

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Question 769 – Medicinal products [nitrous oxide] [54578/23]. (12 Dec 2023)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2023...

769. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Health if consideration will be given to having nitrous oxide categorised as an illegal drug and unlawful to possess, given the recent warning from a leading neurologist regarding the dangers associated with the use of nitrous oxide among young people, with up to ten patients a month presenting to one Dublin hospital with some patients requiring inpatient rehabilitation due to the injuries sustained from inhaling this drug with many streets and public open spaces littered with these canisters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54578/23] 

Stephen Donnelly, Minister for Health: The HSE continues to monitor the use of nitrous oxide and to tailor appropriate and targeted messages. Targeted ads are shared every few weeks on the topic of nitrous oxide with audiences over the age of 18, as well as messages which aim to create awareness of long-term use, which can cause vitamin B12 deficiency in some individuals, and signs of concern which people can look out for. 

The European drugs agency (EMCDDA) recently conducted an EU wide review of nitrous oxide and highlighted a number of key issues regarding the prevention of use including the role of youth workers, the targeted distribution of messaging, and the role of parents. In line with EMCDDA recommendations, the HSE continues to provide a targeted approach to address the use of nitrous oxide, working together with Drug and Alcohol Task Forces around the country. 

Parents are offered information on nitrous oxide in various formats by the HSE. An important goal is to ensure that parents are well-informed about nitrous oxide, and specific information is available on drugs.ie and through a bespoke parent fact sheet. To complement this new content, a series of webinars on substance use and prevention and education for parents was provided during in 2023. 

The HSE has developed a harm reduction fact sheet on use of nitrous oxide including the risks, effects and harm reduction advice. The fact sheet has been disseminated to Drug and Alcohol Task Forces, student unions, and at festivals and third level institutions. 

Drugs.ie and social media channels provide nitrous oxide content that is informative, helpful and shareable. The HSE social media team respond directly to people’s questions about substances including nitrous oxide through direct messages on all channels. HSE social media posts drive traffic to its dedicated nitrous oxide web content on drugs.ie. 

Strengthening the prevention of drug and alcohol use among children and young people is a strategic priority under the national drugs strategy. I have allocated €1.5 million for a three-year drug and alcohol prevention and education programme, which aims to strengthen the prevention of drug and alcohol use, and related harm among children and young people. 

Nitrous oxide falls under the definition of a psychoactive substance and a solvent. Section 3 of the Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances Act) 2010 states that a person who sells a psychoactive substance knowing or being reckless as to whether that substance is being acquired or supplied for human consumption shall be guilty of an offence. 

Section 74 of the Child Care Act 1991 states that it shall be an offence for a person to sell, offer or make available a substance to a person under the age of eighteen years or to a person acting on behalf of that person if he knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the substance is, or its fumes are, likely to be inhaled by the person under the age of eighteen years for the purpose of causing intoxication. 

Responsibility for these Acts lays with the Department of Justice and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, respectively. 

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