Whippets are a street name for the steel cartridges that are filled with nitrous oxide and used in whipped cream dispensers. Nitrous oxide has long been a safe sedation method, typically used by dentists. Commonly referred to as laughing gas, nitrous oxide is often abused as a recreational drug because it produces relaxing, euphoric, and dissociative effects. And because they are legal and easy to obtain, whippets are particularly popular among teenagers.
What Are Whippets and Why Are They Dangerous?
Whippets are not a new drug; however, they are making a comeback in their popularity, use, and abuse. The active substance in whippets, nitrous oxide, while safe when used appropriately for pain relief and to reduce anxiety before dental procedures, can lead to severe and irreversible brain damage and even death in some instances.
Nitrous oxide cartridges are readily accessible online and in stores for use in cans of whipped cream and at-home nitro cold brew systems. However, just because they are available and widespread, it doesn’t mean that whippets are safe for recreational use.
What You Need to Know About Whippets as a Drug
Whippets are psychoactive drugs that is classified as inhalants, much like glue, spray paint, and poppers. Individuals who use whippets inhale nitrous oxide from cartridges in various ways. Whippets are the most commonly used inhalants in the country, with millions of people using them each year.
Whippets Are Not Like Other Substances
Whippets are not like other abused drugs due to the way it interacts with the brain. For example, when individuals use cocaine, MDMA, or opioids, the substance causes their brain’s reward center to release feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. Whippets are different. Instead of tricking or mimicking the brain’s reward center, the nitrous oxide in whippets cuts off the oxygen supply to the brain, interfering with other pathways. When someone inhales whippets, they may laugh uncontrollably, have numbness in their arms and legs, and feel euphoric. However, this feeling only lasts for a very short time – a minute or two. The extremely short period of feeling high makes whippets extremely susceptible to abuse.
Why Are Whippets Bad for You?
Just because nitrous oxide is safe when used in medical settings, it doesn’t mean whippets are harmless when used. The recreational use of whippets poses multiple serious health risks. Dentists and doctors typically administer oxygen in conjunction with nitrous oxide to ensure the safety of the patient and avoid brain damage.
When people abuse whippets, they tend to use numerous cartridges in a short timeframe. This overuse bombards their central nervous systems with much larger amounts of nitrous oxide than they would ever receive in a dentist’s office. With a large quantity of nitrous oxide, the brain and body are severely deprived of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels increase. This may cause passing out, coma, and ultimately, death.
What Are the Negative Health Effects of Whippets?
Using whippets, even one time, can cause some negative side effects, including:
- Psychiatric symptoms
- Impaired brain function
- Impaired motor function
- Peripheral nerve damage
- Cardiovascular damage
- Organ damage
- Harm to the spinal cord
The long-term health consequences of nitrous oxide abuse can happen instantly, and may include:
- Sudden and irreversible brain damage, seizures, loss of lung function
- Inability to process vitamin B12, which is essential for brain function and can lead to death
- Brain damage similar to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, commonly known as wet brain
How Do People Do Whippets?
Whippets are small metal cartridges that look like mini tanks. Users who inhale whippets have to find a way to get it out of its canister so they can breathe it into their lungs to feel the euphoric effects.
Sometimes users huff, or inhale, the nitrous oxide from inside the cartridge. There are a number of tools that exist for this method.
Some users will fill a balloon with the cartridge’s contents, just like filling a balloon with helium. Then, when the balloon is full, they inhale the nitrous oxide from the balloon.
Whipped Cream Dispensers
Users who abuse whippets typically use special whipped cream dispensers, because the cans of whipped cream from the grocery store can quickly frost over and burn a user’s hands. The special whipped cream dispensers that are used are designed for commercial or at home use. There are some that are even specifically designed for inhaling whippets, but they are marketed as home use items.
Are Whippets Addictive?
Yes, whippets can be addictive. Individuals who use whippets regularly can become addicted to the feeling of euphoria, especially when they are used with other drugs, like MDMA or cocaine. However, you cannot become physically dependent on whippets like you can with alcohol or opioids.
Final Thoughts about Whippets
Whippets and laughing gas are street names for nitrous oxide, which is a safe sedation method when used properly by dentists and doctors to relieve pain and anxiety in their patients. They administer it with care and while providing extra oxygen. However, when individuals use whippets recreationally, they are putting themselves at risk for some serious health risks that may include severe brain damage, organ damage, seizures and death. While you cannot become physically dependent on whippets, you can become addicted. If that happens, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible to prevent any negative medical problems in the future.