Recovery Center Blog

What are Whippets and Why Are They Dangerous?

Written By Recovery Centers - May 23rd, 2022
What are Whippets and Why Are They Dangerous?

Drug abuse and addiction are prevalent in the United States. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, around 20 million U.S. adults suffer from a substance use disorder.[1] While most people think of drugs like heroin or cocaine when they imagine addiction, inhalant substances are commonly abused.

One of the most popular inhalant drugs is referred to as “whippets.” Whippets are drugs that individuals inhale that contain nitrous oxide. The National Library of Medicine reported a lifetime use rate of 21.7% for nitrous oxide abuse in America. Even further, about 9% of adolescents and teenagers have abused this drug as well.[2]

Because of the prevalence of whippet drug addiction, individuals must be aware of the dangers of using this substance long-term.

What are Whippets?

As previously stated, whippets are inhalant drugs that contain a psychoactive substance known as nitrous oxide. Traditionally used for sedation and pain relief, nitrous oxide contains nitrogen and oxygen. This substance slows down the activity in an individual’s brain, affecting their body’s responses and causing feelings of euphoria, laughter, and relaxation.

The street names for whippets include:

  • Laughing gas
  • Nitro
  • Nangs
  • Noz
  • Hippy crack
  • Moon gas
  • Poor man’s pot

People may abuse nitrous oxide by inhaling it from a whipped cream canister or by buying cartridges of the substance from smoke shops or adult stores. Because these cartridges are used in whipped cream dispensers, selling them is legal. This makes the whippet drug extremely easy for teenagers to acquire.

Who Abuses Whippets?

Whippets are a type of inhalant drug. Most commonly, people who abuse inhalants are under the age of 18. This is because they are typically easy to obtain, making them accessible to underage individuals.

Additionally, many people abuse whippets while they are under the influence of a psychedelic drug like LSD or MDMA. For example, whippets are extremely common in rave and club scenes. When this substance is mixed with a hallucinogenic drug like LSD, it is known as “gascid”.

People who are at the highest risk of whippet misuse include:

  • Teenagers under the age of 18
  • People who attend raves or nightclubs
  • Individuals with a history of hallucinogenic drug use
  • Polysubstance drug users
  • Individuals who are genetically or environmentally predisposed to substance abuse

The Short-Term Effects of Whippets

When an individual inhales nitrous oxide, they may experience immediate symptoms of dizziness and confusion. This puts them at extreme risk of falling or passing out, especially if they inhale whippets while standing up. Additionally, nitrous oxide abuse is linked to an increase in risky or impulsive behavior that puts people in dangerous situations.

The immediate effects of whippets include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Change in heart rate
  • Sluggishness
  • Loss of motor control
  • Confusion
  • Decrease in blood pressure
  • Hallucinations

People who inhale whippets directly from the cartridge could experience burns to their lips, throat, skin, and even their lungs. This is due to nitrous oxide being cold and producing a lot of pressure when it is released from the can. Individuals who inhale too much of the whippet drug at once could experience fainting, heart attacks, seizures, or death by asphyxiation.[3]

The Long-Term Dangers of Whippets

The short-term effects of whippets should prove that this substance is extremely dangerous when abused. This is especially concerning, as younger kids and teenagers make up a majority of nitrous oxide abusers. Teenagers may not be concerned with the risks and long-term dangers associated with whippet abuse, causing them to continually use the substance and become addicted over time.

The long-term dangers associated with whippet addiction include:

  • Impaired motor skills
  • Decreased brain functioning
  • Urinary and bowel incontinence
  • Reproductive issues
  • Cardiovascular damage
  • Organ damage
  • Weakened immune system
  • Anemia
  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Paralysis
  • Death

The prefrontal cortex does not fully develop until the age of 25 in most cases. As a result, when teenagers abuse nitrous oxide they are at an increased risk of developing brain damage. If their prefrontal cortex becomes damaged, this could lead to blunted emotional responses, aggression, impulsivity, and problems with long-term planning.

Additionally, whippet abuse is linked to a vitamin B12 deficiency. This vitamin is responsible for body tissue repair, nerve health, and red blood cell production. If an individual experiences vitamin B12 deficiency from nitrous oxide abuse, they could experience permanent numbness in their toes and fingers.

Whippets Drug Overdose Symptoms

Unfortunately, it is possible to overdose on whippets. Because many teenagers are unaware of their limits when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse, overdosing on nitrous oxide is an extreme risk. Additionally, the effects of whippets last for a short time, causing individuals to chase the euphoric high until they overdose.

The symptoms of a whippet overdose include:

  • Choking
  • Tightness of chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bluish colored lips, fingers, or toes
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations

Consuming too much nitrous oxide can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to spike. This can cause seizures, strokes, heart attacks, and brain damage.

If an individual is overdosing on whippets, contact medical emergency services immediately. Without proper medical intervention, a nitrous oxide overdose can quickly lead to death.

Finding Help for Inhalant Addiction

If you or a loved one suffers from inhalant abuse or addiction, recovery is possible. An addiction treatment center can provide you with the tools and support you need to recover from substance abuse and regain control of your life.

For more information on how to find addiction help for inhalant abuse, contact Recovery Centers today.

References:

  1. https://drugabusestatistics.org/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921531/
  3. https://pn.bmj.com/content/15/3/207