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While nitrous oxide is the most widely used inhalation anesthetic in dentistry and other emergency and ambulatory centers, nitrous oxide must be inhaled in a controlled setting with trained professionals. Dentists often use nitrous oxide as an anesthetic for pain relief during dental work, but they supply patients with oxygen while they do it. Meanwhile, a number of people inhale it in the form of whippits for the euphoric effects without such precautions.
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Whippits (also known as whippets and whip its) are canisters full of nitrous oxide gas (laughing gas) that have become a recreational drug. This inhaled drug is easily accessible and quite commonly found in the home.
People sometimes empty balloons or whipped cream cans to breathe in nitrous oxide, for example. The nitrous oxide in whip cream chargers tends to leave an oily residue behind. There are also cartridges that contain nitrous oxide gas that people puncture. While some will put a balloon at the end of the charger and then suck the nitrous oxide from the balloon, others will inhale the gas directly out of the cartridge.
But huffing these inhalants has dangerous and even life-threatening side effects, and some young people, in particular, may start to struggle with nitrous oxide abuse. If you or someone you know struggles with substance abuse, reach out to help immediately. Long-term use of nitrous oxide can be permanently damaging and even deadly.
Whippit canisters are not legal in the United States because medical professionals do not consider whippits a safe drug. Like all drug use, the use of whippits can cause serious health problems that may only last a few hours or could last a lifetime.
Nonetheless, whippits are the most popular recreational inhalant out there. More than 12 million users in the United States have tried whippits at least once. Meanwhile, more than 21 million Americans have abused inhalants of all kinds, including whippits.
Most inhalants, including whippits, affect the body’s central nervous system (CNS) and slow down brain activity by cutting off oxygen to the brain. This causes the euphoric effect. While the exact way that nitrous oxide works is unknown, researchers believe that it hits the body in a few different ways. It depresses all sensations—including pain, hearing, and touch—and prevents the normal functioning of some of the brain’s emotional centers.
Whippits do not affect your intelligence, memory, or concentration in the same way that other drugs can. But they do still have a mild influence on those. Short-term effects of whippits are similar to alcohol. Some people will feel light-headed or even have hallucinations in the form of images and sensations that aren’t real. Some people may also experience delusions, which are false beliefs.
The immediate side effects inhaling a balloon or whipped cream dispenser will vary from person to person. Here are a few of the side effects whippits can cause:
Of course, these side effects will vary depending on how much nitrous oxide you breathe in and your weight, size, health status, and what, if any, other substances you use at the same time. How frequently you inhale nitrous oxide may also affect how you respond to it.
Prolonged use of nitrous oxide can take a damaging toll on your brain and body, including:
Young people, especially, are susceptible to substance abuse (use). This kind of drug use can take an increasingly damaging toll on the body over time. Addiction can also affect you physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and financially.
Whippits do not contain properties that make them physically addictive. But because whippits offer a euphoric effect by altering the brain’s reward center, people can develop a psychological dependency on them.
When people become addicted to whippits, the drug becomes even deadlier. Studies show that, while the recreational use of nitrous oxide is widespread, many people have lost their lives using it. Excessive nitrous oxide displaces oxygen, which can lead to asphyxia. Asphyxia is a condition that arises when the body is deprived of oxygen, and it can cause unconsciousness or death.
Even if inhaling whippits doesn’t kill you, doing so can permanently damage your brain and bodily functioning. Because whippits reduce your body’s production of Vitamin B12, which you need for normal brain and nervous system functioning, you can experience irreversible side effects. Vitamin B12 It is vital in your body’s formation of healthy red blood cells and your DNA.
If you or a loved one is struggling with whippit abuse or the abuse of other drugs, help is available. Treatment options include the following:
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Becker, Daniel E, and Morton Rosenberg. “Nitrous Oxide and the Inhalation Anesthetics.” Anesthesia Progress, The American Dental Society of Anesthesiology, 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2614651/.
The Blackberry CenterNestled in a tranquil setting just outside of Orlando. “Whippits Drugs: 11 Facts You Need to Know About Whippets.” The Blackberry Center of Central Florida, 12 Nov. 2020, www.theblackberrycenter.com/whippits-11-facts-you-need-to-know/.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Inhalants DrugFacts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 24 July 2020, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/inhalants.
“Oxide (Noz) and Its Effects on the Body: Whippets Drug.” Laguna Treatment Hospital, lagunatreatment.com/drug-abuse/nitrous-oxide/.
Thompson, Alexander G, et al. “Whippits, Nitrous Oxide and the Dangers of Legal Highs.” Practical Neurology, BMJ Publishing Group, June 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4453489/.
Wagner SA;Clark MA;Wesche DL;Doedens DJ;Lloyd AW; “Asphyxial Deaths from the Recreational Use of Nitrous Oxide.” Journal of Forensic Sciences, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1506823/.