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 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 this purpose, and the nitrous oxide from the can is inhaled, it is commonly referred to as whippets drug, and there are a number of dangerous side effects.
What is the Whippet Drug?
Whippets, whip its, NOS, noz, nossies, nitro, or whippits – there are a few different names and spellings for the drug, but all are derived from the gas inside whipped cream cans. These whipped cream cans contain nitrous oxide or laughing gas, which can cause feelings of euphoria when inhaled.
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 this gas is inhaled, it has a number of side effects on the body. From the mid-1800s, nitrous gas has been used to treat pain because of its relaxing effect on the mind and body.
For those wondering, what is a whippit, it is important to understand that it is both the gas and the means of inhalation. There are a few different ways a person may do whippits. A person will crack or puncture a whipped cream can and then inhale the nitrous oxide from it. This can be done by placing their mouth directly on the can or placing a balloon over it to capture the gas. A balloon can also be used with a nitrous oxide tank as the balloon warms the gas, which is then inhaled. In extreme cases, someone may connect a face-mask to the tank, use capsules or inhale in a closed space with a bag over their head.
Reusable whipped cream dispensers can also be used. These reusable canisters are called chargers. These chargers are steel cartridges filled with nitrous oxide. The foil covering on these chargers is broken and then inhaled by first filling a balloon, as mentioned above, or by placing their mouth directly on the cartridge. Lastly, nitrous gas can also be found in solvents and glue. When someone inhales these, it is more commonly referred to as huffing as opposed to whippits. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, whippits are the most-used inhalant drug.
Side-Effects of Whippits
The effects of whippits are felt immediately and typically last just a couple of minutes, but high doses can last up to 30mins, especially if oxygen deprivation is prolonged. Because this high is so short-lived, people tend to do it continuously. Whippet use results in both immediate and long term effects.
The immediate effects, which give the user that high feeling include:
- Feelings of euphoria
- Giggles or uncontrollable laughing
- Sound distortion
- Light-headedness, dizzy spells
- Blurred vision
- Fatigue or sedation
- Possible sudden death
Possible sudden death, or more specifically, sudden sniffing death syndrome, is caused when an individual inhales a dangerous substance.
When the body is deprived of oxygen, it can quickly go into shock, and the heart will stop beating, resulting in instant death. Seizures may also be triggered from whippet use. These side effects can happen with both low and high doses.
The effects a person doing whippets will experience depend on a number of factors, including their weight, height, B12 levels, age, prior use, and whether or not they are currently using any other substances.
Are Whippets Drugs Addictive?
Yes, whippets are addictive. That said, the way it affects the body is not like many of the other addictive drugs.
Although nitrous oxide has been used for a long time, the mechanisms behind the effects are still not entirely known. That said, some research has concluded that when nitrous oxide is inhaled, it displaces the air and oxygen in the lungs. This prevents oxygen from getting to the brain and bloodstream and which results in the effects listed above. Essentially, it causes hypoxia for a short period of time. Once you stop breathing it in and the lungs receive oxygen again, the euphoric effects wear off.
Some research states that whippets affect the body’s opioid system, and the researchers suggest that this is the reason why it is so addictive. Unlike most recreational drugs, whippets do not overwhelm the brain’s pleasure system. Additionally, the short term effects mean people have to do it repeatedly, creating an addiction. 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. Whippets are addictive, and those who are addicted can experience serious withdrawal symptoms.
The Dangers of Whippets Drug
Anyone can walk into their 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 done under proper guidance and controlled, and although there are still some risks, it is much safer. The accessibility of this drug, and the fact that it is used in dental and medical offices, give some the false security that it is relatively harmless. This is definitely not the case with whippets, and there are a number of dangers associated with inhaling nitrous oxide.
Whippet drugs have serious long term side effects and can even be fatal. Due to the lack of oxygen and B12 depletion, whippets can cause brain, heart, lung, and kidney damage. The act of inhaling nitrous oxide can cause frostbite, ruptures in the lungs, and fainting. Other long-term effects include memory loss, incontinence, weakened immune system, depression, dependence, and mobility issues. The whippet drug can also cause psychosis, which puts the user at serious risk for dangerous behaviors that can harm them as well as others. Additionally, a person abusing whippits may experience the following long-term effects:
- Spinal cord damage
- Consistent weakness or feelings of numbness
- 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 control, 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 B12 and Whippits
Vitamin B12 is vital for the nervous system and brain function. Whippets significantly affect the body’s B12 levels, which can have serious health consequences. Research has found a connection between whippets, B12 levels, and adverse effects on one’s health. A 2019 study found that whippit use in a 27 year old female had caused extremely low B12 levels that led to myeloneuropathy. Myeloneuropathy is damage to the spinal cords 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 this case, the patient also experienced lower motor neural degeneration and later died when he combined whippits with other recreational drugs.
Treatment for Whippet Addiction
If you or someone you know is abusing the whippet drug, you should know that this addiction and many of the side effects are treatable. A drug rehabilitation program can help a person addicted to whippits safely detox and recover. In addition to treating the addiction, vitamin B12 supplements can reverse some of the side effects caused by whippits-induced B12 deficiency.