Whippits (Nitrous Oxide)
In This Article
What are Whippits?
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.
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.
Is it Illegal to do Whippits?
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.
How Do Whippits Affect The Body?
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.
The 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.
Side Effects of Whippits
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:
- Feelings of being high
- Muscle relaxation
- Feelings of being tired or weak
- Lack of balance
- Fuzzy eyesight
- Nausea with or without vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Distorted speech
- Lack of coordination
- Hallucinations (Dissociatives)
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.
The Dangerous Effects of Whippits
Prolonged use of nitrous oxide can take a damaging toll on your brain and body, including:
- A lack of oxygen
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage or kidney failure
- Hearing loss
- Bone marrow damage
- Nerve damage
- Loss of coordination
- Limb spasms
- Delayed behavior development
- Brain damage
- Difficulty breathing
- Temporary loss of motor control
- Decrease in blood pressure
- Changes in heart rate
- Permanent ringing or buzzing in the ears
- Birth defects if used during pregnancy
- Psychological issues from depression to psychosis
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.
Are Whippits Addictive?
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.
Treatment for Whippit Abuse
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:
- Inpatient rehab facilities are live-in centers that offer access to both medical resources and psychological support from trained personnel.
- Outpatient rehab facilities offer the same support as inpatient facilities without residency.
- Alternative addiction treatment programs might include holistic medications, spiritual retreats, religious practices, etc.
- Detox programs can help you wean off your drug addiction slowly and steadily.
- Group therapy offers guided conversations and psychological practices with trained professionals and the support and inspiration of others in similar situations.
- Traditional talk therapy can help you identify and unpack any conscious and subconscious triggers of substance use, as well as resolve repressed memories and emotions that may be at the root of your addiction.
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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/.