The Whippets Drug is one of the most common inhalants used recreationally by teens and young adults to get high.
Like so many things in life, something seemingly harmless and enjoyable can become dangerous and deadly when misused.
Whipped cream, for example, may garnish your pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving or top your favorite Frappuccino.
This popular dessert topping has a dark side, though, and is used by some people to get high and experience short-lived feelings of euphoria and disassociation.
When used for the purpose of inhaling the nitrous oxide from a whipped cream can, it is commonly referred to as the whippets drug, and it can cause a number of dangerous side effects.
Because National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week is recognized each year in March, it’s a good time increase awareness about the dangers of the whippets drug.
What is the Whippets Drug?
The whippets drug got its name from the gas inside whipped cream cans.
Most whipped cream cans contain nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, which can cause feelings of euphoria when inhaled.
Other popular names for the whippets drug include:
- Whip its
Nitrous Oxide is a colorless gas that contains a mix of oxygen and nitrogen. It has been used in dentistry and medicine for centuries and can be traced back to the 19th century.
When nitrous oxide gas is inhaled, it produces a number of side effects on the body. From the mid-1800s to today, nitrous oxide gas has been used to treat pain because of its relaxing effect on the mind and body.
In regards to the whippets drug, it is important to understand that it includes both the gas and the method of inhalation.
There are several different ways a person can get high from the whippets drug.
1. Whipped Cream Cans
The easiest and most convenient way is to inhale the nitrous oxide gas directly from a can of whipped cream. This is accomplished by holding the can upright in a vertical position and placing the tip of the can into the mouth and inhaling the gas.
It’s also possible to place a balloon over the tip to capture the gas.
By holding the can straight up instead of tilting it, only the gas will come out without the whipped cream.
2. Nitrous Oxide Tanks
Nitrous oxide tanks are used in dentistry, industrial applications, and high performance street cars and race cars. Regulations for selling nitrous tanks have become stricter in recent years but they are still available.
Most people who have access to a nitrous tank will use it to fill a balloon with the gas and then inhale it from the balloon. The tip of the tank gets very cold so it is more dangerous to inhale directly from a nitrous tank than a whipped cream can.
In extreme cases, a person may connect a facemask to the tank, or simply let the gas out of the tank in a small, closed space.
3. Whipped Cream Chargers
Reusable whipped cream canisters can be purchased at restaurant supply stores and even head shops that sell other types of paraphernalia. These reusable canisters are called chargers.
The chargers are small, steel cartridges filled with enough nitrous oxide to refill or charge one can of whipped cream. A user will place a balloon over the end of the charger and break the seal to fill the balloon with nitrous gas and then inhale it from the balloon.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) lists whippets as a common form inhalant drug.
Whippets Drug Side Effects
The whippets drug side effects are felt immediately and typically last only a very short time, although high doses can last up to a few minutes, especially if oxygen deprivation is prolonged.
Because the high is so short, people tend to do it repeatedly over and over to keep feeling the effects.
Unfortunately, whippet use results in both immediate and long-term side effects. The immediate effects are the ones that make the user feel high, but wear off quickly.
Immediate whippets side effects include:
- Feelings of euphoria
- Giggling or laughing uncontrollably
- Hearing distorted sounds
- Dizzy spells
- Numbness or tingling throughout the body
- Blurred vision
- Fatigue or sedation
- Possible sudden death from asphyxiation
Possible sudden death, or more specifically, sudden sniffing death syndrome, is caused when an individual inhales a dangerous substance.
In the case of whippets, inhaling nitrous oxide displaces oxygen, which is needed for the brain and body to function and survive.
When the body is deprived of oxygen, it can quickly go into shock and the heart will stop beating, resulting in death.
Seizures may also be triggered from whippet use, and these types of whippet drug side effects can happen with both low and high doses.
Each person will experience different effects when doing whippets depending on a number of factors including:
- Amount used
- Duration of use
- Body weight
- Vitamin B12 levels
- Mixing with other substances at the same time
Are Whippets Addictive?
There is evidence that nitrous oxide in the whippets drug is addictive due to its interaction with opioid receptors.
While physical addiction is thought to be low, it’s much more common to develop a psychological addiction to the drug. With that said, whippets do not affect the body like many other addictive substances.
Although nitrous oxide has been used medically for a long time, the mechanism behind the effects on the body are still not entirely known.
As mentioned previously, when nitrous oxide is inhaled, it displaces the oxygen in the lungs, brain, and bloodstream, resulting in the side effects listed above.
Essentially, it causes hypoxia for a short period of time. Once a person stops breathing in nitrous oxide and the lungs receive oxygen again, the euphoric effects wear off.
Unlike most recreational drugs, whippets do not overwhelm the brain’s pleasure system.
In addition, the short-term effects mean people have to do it repeatedly for a long time before becoming addicted.
A common misconception is that because it is found in a household food product, it is not addictive, and people may not be fully aware of the negative side effects whippets are having on them.
Even though the prevalence of whippets addiction is low, those who become addicted may experience some form of withdrawal symptoms.
The Dangers of the Whippets Drug
Anyone can walk into a local supermarket and buy a can of whipped cream or charger for just a few dollars.
When nitrous oxide is used in medical settings, it is in a controlled environment with proper guidance. Although there are still some risks, it is considered to be much safer.
The wide use of nitrous oxide by trained professionals in dental and medical offices gives a false sense of security that it is relatively harmless.
This is definitely not the case when it is used recreationally, and there are a number of dangers associated with inhaling the whippets drug.
Whippets may have serious long-term side effects and can even be fatal. Due to the lack of oxygen and vitamin B12 depletion, whippets can cause brain, heart, lung, and kidney damage.
The act of inhaling cold nitrous oxide gas can cause frostbite, ruptures in the lungs, and fainting due to oxygen depletion.
Other dangerous side effects of whippets include memory loss, depression, dependence, and mobility issues.
The whippets drug can also cause psychosis, which puts the user at serious risk for dangerous and harmful behavior.
Severely Abusing Whippets Can Cause Long-term Effects Including:
- Consistent weakness or feelings of numbness
- Spinal cord damage
- Recurring seizures
- Impaired motor function
- Permanent brain damage
- Memory loss
- Balance issues
- Psychological issues including delusions and paranoia
When whippits are mixed with other drugs, including alcohol, the risks are heightened.
The combination of whippets and alcohol can cause confusion, limited concentration, loss of memory, and sedation.
When whippets are combined with depressant drugs like opiates or benzodiazepines, it affects the heart, blood vessels, and breathing rate, which could result in death.
Sudden death is much more likely when combined with alcohol and other drugs.
The Connection Between Vitamin B12 and the Whippets Drug
Vitamin B12 is vital for the nervous system and brain to function properly.
Whippets significantly affect the body’s vitamin B12 levels, which can have serious health consequences. Research has found a connection between whippets, vitamin B12 levels, and adverse effects on person’s health.
A 2019 study found that whippet drug use in a 27-year-old female had caused extremely low vitamin B12 levels that led to myeloneuropathy.
Myeloneuropathy causes damage to the spinal cord and peripheral nervous system, which results in weakness of limbs, difficulty walking, and ataxia.
Oxford Medical published a similar study, with a 23-year-old male. In that case, the patient also experienced lower motor neural degeneration and later died when he combined whippets with other recreational drugs.
Treatment for Whippets Addiction
Even though there is a low risk of addiction to the whippets drug, teens and young adults who use this type of recreational substance on a regular basis may have an addictive personality and could be susceptible to other forms of addiction.
A psychological dependence to whippets is still considered a substance use disorder and may require an inpatient or outpatient treatment program to identify and treat the root causes of the addiction.
This will not only reduce the risk of becoming addicted to other substances, but will also teach relapse prevention strategies to avoid using again in the future.
Detox is usually not needed for whippets abuse, although Vitamin IV Therapy may be necessary to replenish the levels of vitamin B12 to improve overall health.