Gardaí have appealed to students starting college and university this week to avoid the “harmful consequences” of drug misuse, including using nitrous oxide balloons.
As part of their drug awareness campaign on campuses, gardaí warned students of the health and prosecution risks of nitrous oxide.
The substance, also known as laughing gas, has become increasingly popular among young people as a means of getting high. It is used in the catering industry and as a mild anaesthetic.
Nitrous oxide has been linked to multiple deaths in the UK – though none to date in Ireland.
Online retail giant Amazon, a popular source for nitrous oxide in recent years, has now stopped the sale of the substance in Ireland.
A 2019 survey by the HSE and Trinity College Dublin found that 25 per cent of drug users who attended festivals that year consumed nitrous oxide.
Gardaí on Tuesday launched their #Riseabovetheinfluence drug awareness campaign for students, highlighting the risks of recreational drugs as well as the “anxiety, addiction and psychosis” caused by taking sleeping pills or unprescribed “study drugs”.
According to the Health Research Board National Drugs Library, 674 people under the age of 18 entered drug treatment programmes last year — the majority used cannabis as their main problem drug.
A further 1,874 people aged between 18 and 24 entered drug treatment, with 61 per cent of these admitting to using more than one drug.
“Freshers’ Week should be a time for celebration, the beginning of something good in your life,” said Det Supt Sé McCormack of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
“Our 'Rise above the influence' message is simple – your future is in your hands,” Det Supt McCormack said.
“Seek out positive influences on campus. Choose the influences which will enhance your future career.”
Gardaí said that anyone who has become ill after consuming a drug, or anyone who is in the presence of somebody who may be ill as a result of drug misuse, should contact emergency services immediately.