Recreational use of nitrous oxide – commonly known as laughing gas – has seemingly risen substantially during lockdown. Many people will have seen the small silver cannisters, which resemble bullets, lying on the ground after use. Mick Morrissey spoke to Joe Duffy on Wednesday’s Liveline about his son’s use of what is more commonly used as an anaesthetic in surgery and dentistry. Mick’s son Alex was just 15 when he went out for a haircut one day in March.
“Unfortunately on his way back, he met some of his friends and they went off and done whatever they were doing. So, from what I hear from his friends, they were going at these nitrous oxide cannisters and unfortunately, whatever happened, Alex passed away then a short while later.”
Mick told Joe that he had been looking for Alex that evening when he hadn’t come home. He checked with Alex’s friends and they were all at home, so he rang the Garda station.
“The guards down there just said, ‘Look, we’re going to send a car up to get you’.” And I was like, ‘Why? What’s he after doing? It couldn’t be that bad’.”
The gardaí told Mick that they’d found a child in a critical condition over in Firhouse and they brought him to Our Lady’s hospital in Crumlin where he was asked to identify a child. The doctor spoke to him before taking him into the room:
“He said to me, ‘Look, I have to bring you into this room to see this child, but I need to inform you before you go in that this child is already deceased’.”
Mick told Joe that when he saw his son on the bed, “the whole world fell apart after that”.
“He went out to get his hair cut and he never came home.”
The exact cause of death hasn’t yet been established and Mick was told that, due to the pandemic, it could be six to twelve months before the coroner has issued his report.
Cannisters of nitrous oxide can be bought online for “next to nothing”, Mick said and there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of warnings or publicity about the dangers of ‘laughing gas’. But what is the appeal of nitrous oxide? Mick told Joe what he’s learned about it.
“From what the doctor told me in the hospital, it puts bubbles into your blood system, so when these bubbles go into your blood system, it slows down your heart rate and you get some sort of a euphoria buzz out of it.”
Mick wanted to go on Liveline to warn parents about the dangers of nitrous oxide – especially given the fact that there’s so little attention paid to it in the media.
“If they find these things, they need to be able to tell their children, ‘Look, you can’t be doing these things’. Even if Alex’s name is mentioned, I don’t care, because I’m not going to stop, Joe, until there’s some sort of legislation or something done or passed.”
You can hear the full conversation between Joe and Mick on Wednesday’s Liveline here.
Niall Ó Sioradáin
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