Whippets, or whip-its, are the street name for nitrous oxide chargers. These chargers are typically used in household items like rechargeable whipped cream containers, but they can also be misused to get high.
Nitrous oxide, when inhaled, can have euphoric effects. It has been given the nickname laughing gas for this reason. Since it’s used in household items, many people get the idea that nitrous oxide isn’t harmful to the body. That is simply not the case.
Whippets can, in fact, cause harm to the body when used regularly, and potentially even result in addiction.
Explaining Nitrous Oxide
Nitrous Oxide can be found in a variety of uses. It’s most popular form, when it comes to whippets, is as a propellant in rechargeable whipped cream canisters. The actual compound is a colorless, odorless gas that has many medical uses.
“Laughing gas”, as it’s more commonly known, is often used in dental procedures, and even during pregnancy, for pain relief. It can also be used to treat anxiety.
Facts About Whippets
Although misusing nitrous oxide can be harmful, it is actually safe for medical use in small doses. The euphoric effect is used as pain relief during oral surgery. According to university studies, the dangerous effects aren’t an issue during medical use because the dosage is being administered and monitored by a professional.
Inhaling nitrous oxide can be just as dangerous as other drugs. However, it affects the brain in a different way. Most drugs work by overwhelming the brain’s pleasure centers. With whippets, the user is achieving their high through depriving their brain of oxygen. This can cause feelings of euphoria or dizziness, but can be potentially fatal.
Prolonged use of whippets, or high dosages, can cause serious health risks like seizure and coma. Abusing them can also cause sudden sniffing death syndrome and continued use over time can result in permanent organ damage.
Inhaling the chemicals over time does damage to the central nervous system. This results in problems with thinking, hearing, vision, movement, and vision. Even damage to vital organs like the liver, kidneys, lungs, and heart is possible with long-term use.
In addition to the physical health effects, nitrous oxide has also proven to be addictive. Some may become addicted to whippets for stress relief. Others wind up becoming addicted to the euphoric feeling of inhaling them. As with any addictive substance, users can also experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping/decreasing their use of nitrous oxide.
Signs of Whippet Use
It can be hard to prevent someone from using whippets because of the easy access, and household nature of the drug. If you keep things like whipped cream in your house, a loved one could be abusing the nitrous oxide, and you might not even know. However, there are some signs to look for to determine if you are, in fact, dealing with inhalant abuse.
Users may have difficulty inhaling the nitrous oxide from the cartridges because it leaves the cartridges quickly. To get around this many users have started to use balloons to inhale the drug. This allows the gas to warm up, and prevents serious damage to the user’s lungs caused by nitrous oxide rushing into the lungs too quickly. The gas can also cause frostbite because it’s extremely cold when it leaves the canister. Finding empty balloons with a strange chemical odor can be a sign of inhalant abuse.
Another sign could be the purchase of canister crackers. These devices can be purchased legally online, and their only use is opening nitrous oxide canisters. Canister crackers do have a legitimate use, but if you don’t normally keep them in your home and start to see them showing up in drawers, it may be a sign of a loved one using whippets.
In addition to seeing items like canister crackers and balloons show up around the house, there are some physical side effects that indicate inhalant abuse. Chronic users may start to develop what’s known as “glue sniffer’s rash” around the nose and mouth. Also, if a person’s fingers and clothes smell of solvents it could be an indicator that they have been abusing inhalants. Users also experienced other symptoms like slurred speech that quickly goes away, hypoxia, and wheezing.
Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome
The most dangerous side effect of whippet use would be Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. SSDS is a rare form of sudden cardiac arrest. It is mostly associated with the inhaling of halogenated hydrocarbons. These chemicals are found in freons, carbon tetrachloride, and other chemicals found in refrigerants, solvents, or fire extinguishers.
The syndrome typically occurs when use of the hydrocarbon is then followed by exertion or sexual stimulation. The real danger of SSDS is that it’s so sudden and can even occur in first time users.
Are Whippets Illegal
Whether or not whippets are legal depends on the user’s intent. If they’re being purchased to assist in medical or dental procedures, or to recharge canisters of whipped cream, then they are not deemed illegal. However, many states have declared them illegal if the users intent is to use them as a recreational drug. This can be hard to prove when the canisters are being purchased, however.
The challenge with this drug is that they are easy to obtain. There are even instances of canisters being sold openly at clubs and concerts. They are even outright marketed to teens and college kids.
Many states have outlawed offering the drug to minors and have classified selling/using nitrous oxide as a recreational drug as a misdemeanor-level crime. Possession of large quantities of whippets can be considered a 3rd degree felony, and driving under the influence of whippets can be classified as a DUI.
Treatment For Whippets
Vitamin B12 is the recommended treatment for side effects of whippets. When nitrous oxide enters the brain, it changes the way the brain uses Vitamin B12. Deficiency of B12 can also lead to nervous system disorders. Taking additional B12 to combat this has been used as treatment for whippet abuse with mixed results. Many patients reported improvement, while others said there was no change.
In addition to treating the physical symptoms of whippet use, substance abuse or addiction counseling may be recommended.
Just Believe Recovery offers integrated, evidence-based services, in both partial hospitalization and residential formats, and activities intended to treat alcohol and drug addiction. Our programs feature therapeutic resources vital for recovery, including psychotherapy, counseling, substance abuse education, group therapy, art, and music therapy, aftercare planning, and more.