Minister of State for Drugs Policy Frank Feighan is seeking a report from his department on the use of nitrous oxide – or laughing gas – following the death of a teenager who ingested the substance in recent weeks.
The father of the teenage boy urged other teenagers to stay away from the drug on Wednesday.
Mick Morrissey from Tallaght, Dublin, told Liveline on RTÉ Radio 1 how his 15-year-old son Alex Ryan Morrissey was found slumped over in an unresponsive state in the Ballycullen area on May 20th.
The HSE on Wednesday added nitrous oxide to the official list of dangerous drugs following concerns raised in the Dáil.
“It is a trend that has emerged at festivals,” said Mr Feighan. “Nitrous oxide is an issue that has come to the fore in the last few weeks and months. It’s worrying because it is another trend that is a danger to our children.
“I’ve asked the department to find out from all the HSE areas and get feedback on the issue first of all. I’m hoping to get a briefing from the department as quickly as possible.
“I think there are a lot of education strategies out there already. We need to ensure that people, and especially young people, are aware of the dangers of this.”
Separately the Minister has withdrawn remarks he made in which he said public officials and staff at RTÉ were “snorting cocaine all over the place”.
The new Fine Gael junior minister made the claim during a local radio debate in the midst of the general election campaign. The discussion was focused on the problem of recreational drug use and crime in Ireland.
“You talk about drugs, I remember 2002, I was talking about cannabis and nobody was listening,” he said. “Cannabis, like alcohol, is a gateway drug to cocaine and we had this lovely feeling about it, ‘sure it’s a bit of fun’.”
Mr Feighan has declined to withdraw the remarks on a number of occasions in the past week, but eventually did so on Wednesday.
“First of all, I shouldn’t have focused on any one organisation, especially one that has done so much to promote the damaging effects of drugs on our society,” he told Drivetime on RTÉ Radio 1.
“It was a town hall debate and my comments were clumsy and unfair. I’m only too happy to withdraw them.”