It has been shown that nitrous oxide has been a safe and medically prescribed pain treatment for a long time. Some people abuse nitrous oxide as a recreational drug, because of its euphoric, relaxing, and dissociative effects. It is a chemical commonly found in whipped cream dispensers, known as whippets, whippits, or “hippy crack”. Teens and young adults are more likely to use nitrous oxide because of its legal and easy accessibility.
As a result, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that there has been an increasing number of cases involving teens who inhale nitrous oxide from whipped cream dispensers called “whippets” or “whippits”. The gas can be purchased at any grocery store with a pharmacy section. Nitrous oxide is also used by dentists during root canal procedures, commonly referred to as “laughing gas”.
What Are Whippits (Nitrous Oxide)?
The term whippets (also known as whippits, whip-its, or hippy crack), is used to describe the nitrous oxide gas commonly found in whipped cream cans or whipped cream chargers. A person may inhale the nitrous oxide gas used to help push the cream out of the whipped cream can. Some people will inhale the nitrous oxide in whippets to get high because of its euphoric effects. Whipped cream and gas may seem like a harmless combination, but nitrous oxide misuse is just one form of inhalant abuse. This type of abuse can be life-threatening.
According to SAMHSA, whippets are one of the most abused inhalants, more abused than gasoline, spray paint, and lighter fluid. Their 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that 3.3% of individuals aged 18-25 have reported misusing nitrous oxide, while 5.2% of people 26 and older have misused them.
Short and Long-term Effects & Dangers
In the beginning, the brief sense of euphoria when nitrous oxide is inhaled may be slight. The calming effect may produce relaxation and a sensation of floating. Additional reported short-term effects of whippits are:
- Frost burn
- Uncontrollable laughter
- Loss of consciousness
- Numbness or tingling in the body
How Do You Know If Someone Is Using Whippits?
If you suspect someone might be abusing whippits, it’s important to know how to recognize signs of their misuse. Here are some warning signs that your friend or family member might be using whippits:
- Noticing empty canisters, steel cartridges, or similar paraphernalia
- Changes in behavior
- Red eyes
- Sores around the mouth
- Runny nose
- Intoxicated appearance
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings
The National Institutes of Health states that anyone who suspects they’re being exposed to nitrous oxide should seek medical attention immediately. Inhalant abusers often do not realize the severity of their misuse until after symptoms appear. Whippits’ effects can be associated with serious health problems; however, only 29.3 percent of people surveyed were aware of the serious effects.
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Nitrous oxide is a powerful drug that produces immediate effects when inhaled. Abuse of this drug can lead to muscle weakness and nerve damage. Frequent use of whippets can cause severe nerve damage. Long-term effects include:
- Kidney and Liver Damage
- Heart failure
- Memory Problems
- Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
- Low Blood Pressure
- Weakened Immune System
- Lung Damage
- Impaired brain development/brain damage
- Vision Problems
Although health problems can occur with repeated use, the dangers of nitrous oxide inhalation are high for both new and experienced users. Asphyxiation can occur if the brain and body become starved of oxygen. The result could be serious health problems including organ failure, brain damage, and even death.
Treatment Options For Inhalant Abuse
Whippit abuse can have serious consequences. Understanding the effects can help you determine if you need help. When you find yourself becoming addicted to the effects of whippits, cannot control your intake, and suffer moodiness if you‘re not using them, consider seeking help from medical professionals. An inpatient treatment program allows for detoxification to occur, with the person receiving round-the-clock monitoring and support when needed.
At Riverside Recovery of Tampa, our detox and residential programs assist individuals on their road to recovery from substance abuse. Contact our admissions team today and get back to the life you love.