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What Are Whippets?

It’s well-known that there is a wide variety of drugs and addictive substances available for recreational use, some legal and others illegal. Their effects on the human brain and body vary depending upon their strength and the individual person in question. Many of these illicit substances are more obvious than others, such as LSD or cocaine, and the public has a built-in and widespread knowledge of the effects of these more well-known drugs.

Other abused substances are more difficult to identify and may more easily fly under the radar. One such substance is nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is a colorless substance that has many legitimate uses, but unfortunately, it is also consumed by inhalation to achieve a drug “high.” The continued use of this substance to achieve this high can cause short-term dangers in the moment as well as significant physical and mental problems over time.

What Are Whippets?

In the context of substance abuse and inhalation, nitrous oxide is commonly referred to as “whippets.” This can also be spelled alternatively as “whippits” or “whip-its.” The term is derived from the fact that one common form in which nitrous oxide is sold is canisters to be used to whip cream in culinary settings and kitchens. These canisters are easily obtainable (relatively speaking) because of their legitimate use in cooking, and their widespread availability has thus led to a significant increase in the substance’s popularity as a recreational drug in recent decades.

Nitrous Oxide’s Legitimate Uses

It’s important to keep in mind that nitrous oxide is used in several legitimate applications. As mentioned, the substance can be utilized from canisters that are designed to easily whip cream for baking and cooking purposes.

Another common use for nitrous oxide (and perhaps the most well-known) is in medical and dental offices for sedative purposes. In situations (such as a dental procedure) that may not warrant complete sedation but are still too physically painful not to medicate the patient, nitrous oxide is used to reduce pain and physical feeling temporarily. It also typically helps patients to relax, and it temporarily reduces anxiety.

Finally, nitrous oxide is also sometimes applied to vehicles. It increases their horsepower and helps to cool the intake air, allowing for better engine and vehicle performance overall. All of these uses for nitrous oxide are perfectly legal and present no inherent threat to anyone’s health or well-being. The direct inhalation of the substance, however, is problematic.

How Do Whippets Work?

Whippets are usually used by either directly inhaling the nitrous oxide from canisters (usually accompanied by covering the head with a bag to increase the potency of the inhalation) or transferring the substance to a balloon and inhaling it from there. While inhaling the substance from a balloon is known as being a slightly “safer” method, it essentially has the same effect as any other inhalation method.

Once the nitrous oxide is inhaled, it very quickly spreads throughout the body and begins preventing oxygen from entering the lungs or brain. This, in turn, results in a significant change of mood and feelings in the individual, often inducing a “silly” or “laughing” state. Hence, this substance is often referred to as “laughing gas.” This process essentially causes oxygen deprivation, which is a summarized description of how the substance works. This should be a red flag for those seeking to use it recreationally.

The most common environment for whippets to be taken is in social settings, though there are certainly some who use whippets on their own. Because of the social nature of the drug, many users have a false sense of security using it, but regardless of whether there are other people around, the nitrous oxide itself will still have its effects.

What Effects Do Whippets Have?

The effects of this nitrous oxide inhalation are many, but the most significant is an intense “high” that lasts only for about 30 to 60 seconds. Accompanying this high, there may be extreme lightheadedness, dizziness, slurred speech, loss of coordination, and even vomiting. Despite the potential negative effects associated with this drug, the “high” produced is typically intense enough that users consider it a “positive” experience.

Unlike other drugs that have hallucinogenic properties, whippets typically have their effect quickly and fade away quickly. As a result, the user is back to “normal” within a few minutes of any given inhaling. However, because of the addictive nature of the effects of the substance, it is not uncommon for users to keep huffing it for several more consecutive highs in sequence.

Are Whippets Dangerous or Harmful?

Taking whippets is a very dangerous game for several reasons. First, whippets greatly impair your ability to perceive your surroundings and your own body accurately, and the results could be disastrous. There are, for example, reports of people high on nitrous oxide who have literally walked off of balconies and been significantly injured. Other potential injuries depend upon the setting but include burns, car accidents, drowning, or simply having a bad fall.

Furthermore, because nitrous oxide is a neurotoxin, it can have damaging effects on the brain. These effects may not be obvious at first, but over time they may become more apparent and worsen. Remember, whippets are essentially temporarily depriving your body of the oxygen it needs to function properly. Oxygen is a very basic need for the human body and brain, and without it significant issues may occur.

While the duration of most whippets highs is a minute or less, the nature of the high tends to draw users into re-huffing and re-using the substance many times in one sitting, and a habit can easily be formed over time which may lead to addiction. What may sound like a harmless 60 seconds of lightheadedness or high feelings can easily become regular sessions of seeking more of the whippet high. This in turn means more potential for physical harm as a result of the high as well as more potential for brain damage. The chances of dependency and addiction developing will also increase the more a person uses whippets.

Whippets use can also lead to a breakdown in one’s most important relationships. This is a danger that many don’t think about with regard to drug abuse, but it can greatly affect one’s quality of life. Whippet use tends to coincide with “finding new friends” and losing old ones, and it may often be something that comes between the user and their family (especially because the user almost always hides their whippet use).

Other Dangers to Consider

The the mixing of different drugs with whippets can also be particularly dangerous, especially if the drugs in question are also hallucinogenic in nature. These drugs alone can have devastating effects, but taken together they can also be extremely unpredictable. It is never a good idea to take psychedelic drugs and whippets at the same time.

It is also especially dangerous for pregnant women to inhale nitrous oxide because the substance can reach unborn fetuses and cause birth defects. 30 to 60 seconds of a high simply isn’t worth the permanent damage that can occur as a result.

Do Whippets Have Long-term Effects?

Unfortunately, despite what many people think, whippets use can have long-term effects on the health of the user. Most of these negative effects are brain-related, which should give one pause for thought before using whippets. Brain function is one of the biggest factors in one’s overall health, and its impairment will detrimentally affect just about every area of the person’s life.

Some of the longer-term issues that extensive whippet use can cause are the following:

  • Decreased and slower cognition
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Kidney issues
  • Damage to the liver
  • Loss of hearing
  • Breathing problems
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Behavioral issues
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Low blood pressure
  • Depression

Whippets can also result in varying degrees of psychosis, which is essentially a mental disconnect from reality. It can also be characterized by a lack of self-identification and extreme brain fog. Without proper treatment, an overdose of nitrous oxide can even lead to a coma or fatality. Don’t underestimate the negative effects that whippets use can have on a person’s life.

Are Whippets Legal?

Nitrous oxide itself is perfectly legal, but its illicit use is treated differently in different parts of the country. In some places, minors are not allowed to even possess nitrous oxide (much less inhale it). There are states in which only a certain amount of it may be purchased by each customer, for obvious reasons.

The recreational use of nitrous oxide is outright illegal in some states and areas. In certain parts of the country, police may arrest a person for inhaling the substance, even if the mere possession of it isn’t illegal for that person. Because the laws vary from state to state, it’s a good idea to know what your state’s regulations and laws are so you can be aware of this facet of the issue.

Certain festivals have also banned the use of whippets on their premises as a result of the issues caused by the drug.

Can Nitrous Oxide Be Addictive?

The question of addiction is an important one because many such substances are clearly addictive. And while it may seem like whippets wouldn’t cause addiction due to their short-lived highs and effects, the use of nitrous oxide in this way can and does lead to psychological dependency.

Those who come from families with a prior history of addiction (or substance abuse in general) will typically find themselves more prone to the same, so it’s especially important for those individuals to be especially careful with a substance like this.

While this dependency may not be a physical addiction in the same sense as other substances, it can have a significant impact on the priorities and quality of life of the individual in question. First, the amount of time and energy that is exhausted in their pursuit of the drug high will begin to get in the way of more important things. Their academics may start to suffer. Their relationships may start to become more distant and strained. Their work may lose quality, potentially even leading to the loss of a job. Psychological dependency on a drug or substance can affect just about every aspect of someone’s life.

Finances are another consideration. While nitrous oxide may not be a particularly expensive substance, the quantity being purchased can mean relatively great cost to the user, and for younger people in particular (especially teenagers, many of whom aren’t even working yet) this can cause financial problems or difficult choices that shouldn’t be necessary in the first place (such as whether to purchase more drugs or lunch).

What Demographics Tend to Abuse Nitrous Oxide?

Whippets are used primarily by teenagers and adolescents. In fact, adolescents are typically more likely to use inhalants than adults aged 18 and over. In general, the younger populations are the most likely to use whippets and other such inhalants. Of course, this doesn’t mean that older populations don’t also abuse this substance.

Research has shown that those young people who try using whippets in the first place have a relatively high chance of using them again. This presents problems especially for adolescents and young adults because they are still in development. The effects of a substance like nitrous oxide can be harmful to anyone over time, but on a developing brain they can be especially potent and the damage can be permanent.

When Was Nitrous Oxide First Abused?

Nitrous oxide has been inhaled for recreational purposes for almost two centuries. It started as an upper-class recreation at parties. It was allegedly noted by the medical professionals of that day for its pain-numbing qualities as a result, and over time it was adopted as a medical practice to help with painful procedures. Unfortunately, the recreational use of whippets has continued until now, and in fact, there has been a surge in its use in the last couple of decades. Its culinary use has made it readily available in many stores, and this has contributed to its increase in use.

What Are Warning Signs of Whippets Use?

It may seem like whippets use would be hard to detect due to the fact that the highs it produces are short-lived. While this is sometimes true, extensive use of this inhalant can have some relatively obvious signs. If you suspect whippet use in someone’s life, it’s good to keep an eye out for the following:

  • Ongoing and unexplained sore throat
  • Increase in bruises or physical injuries
  • Rashes on the face
  • Memory loss
  • Slower cognitive ability
  • Bad or unfamiliar odors (such as on the breath)
  • Sudden change in their group of friends or social circle

Of course, you may actually be wondering about your own mental health with regard to whippet use. If you are worried about being addicted to whippets or have been using them yourself, it’s important to be aware of the following signs of a significant problem:

  • Ongoing and unshakeable desire to use whippets
  • A constant increase in the amount of your substance use
  • Continued use despite injuries or other issues as a result
  • Feeling helpless when you think about your drug use
  • Missing out on work or family functions for the sake of your drug use

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to take a step back, critically think about your situation, and admit you have a problem that needs to be addressed.

How Can You Stop Using Whippets?

When a whippets user is caught in a psychological addiction or dependency on the substance, it can seem like there’s no hope for freedom. But with the right help and treatment, whippets can become a thing of their past, just as is the case with any other drug or substance abuse problem.

Depending upon the severity of the case, treatment for whippets abuse may involve either an inpatient or an outpatient rehabilitation program. These programs incorporate a variety of methods to help the patient conquer their drug abuse, which may include behavioral therapy, counseling, medical detox, and family therapy.

It’s important to note that any successful rehab program will not only address the physical aspects of the drug abuse but will also help the patient to dig deep and uncover the (often hidden) reasons why the drug abuse is happening in the first place. This aspect of treatment can be difficult, but it’s all part of the healing process.

Get Help When You Need It

If you or a loved one is struggling with a dependency upon whippets or any other such substance, it is vital to get professional help. Don’t try to go it alone; start forming the network you need to effectively tackle your addiction and drug problem once and for all. Contact Clean Recovery Centers today to get connected to the right support for you. The caring and knowledgeable team at Clean Recovery Centers can help walk you through your next steps toward recovery, so you can reclaim your life and leave addiction in the past.


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