Everything You Need to Know About Whippets
Drug use comes in many forms, so it can be surprisingly hard to recognize. “Whippets” are one of the most overlooked recreational drugs, yet they are actually one of the top 10 most abused drugs worldwide. Learning how this substance is misused can help you keep your loved ones safe.
What Are Whippets?
“Whippets” is a slang term for recreationally used nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is a type of gas that, when inhaled inappropriately, can cause some mental and physical impairment. It has many legitimate uses, including pain relief, food preparation, and boosting the performance of cars. Many dentists use it as a form of anesthesia during treatments. However, nitrous oxide can also be inhaled as a recreational drug.
The drug is often called “whippets” because one of the most common forms of nitrous oxide is whipped cream chargers. Abusing nitrous oxide goes by many names. They include:
• Laughing Gas
Effects of Nitrous Oxide
Why do so many people try abusing nitrous oxide? This substance tends to have intoxicating effects. People may feel a rush of euphoria, numbness, giddiness, or disassociation. In rare situations, whippets may result in hallucinations or sedation. It can also cause physical effects like dizziness, loss of balance, nausea, and weakness in the limbs. Whippets’ effects are very brief. For most people, intense sensations only last two to three minutes, and all effects usually resolve within half an hour.
Ways Nitrous Oxide Is Abused
There are many different ways for people to inhale this gas. Some may have access to professional equipment that lets them inhale nitrous oxide from a large canister. Many others use a whipped cream charger with small canisters of nitrous oxide, or they might use the small canisters of the gas that are found in store-bought cans of whipped cream. It is possible to inhale the gas directly from a canister, but it is fairly common for users to place the gas in a balloon and inhale from the balloon.
The Legality of Whippets
Because it has so many legitimate uses, nitrous oxide is entirely legal on its own. The substance is not regulated by the DEA, and people can possess it without any consequences. Due to its legality, nitrous oxide is one of the most easily obtainable drugs, especially for teenagers. That being said, there are still some legal issues to be aware of.
Though it’s legal to possess the substance and use it for boosting your car or making a cake, it’s not legal to inhale it for nonmedical reasons. This means that if a police officer sees someone using nitrous to get high, they can arrest them. Furthermore, nitrous oxide is often only sold to people above a certain age. Minors who use a fake ID to purchase the substance can still get in trouble. Finally, nitrous oxide use counts as intoxication. Those who drive while high on the gas can face DUI charges.
Are Whippets Dangerous?
Since whippets aren’t technically an illegal drug, many people assume they are harmless. This is not true at all. Abusing nitrous oxide is associated with a variety of health problems. Unless a person is inhaling it with medical supervision, nitrous oxide can be quite dangerous, causing both short- and long-term harm.
The most important issue to be aware of is the risk of asphyxiation. When you inhale nitrous oxide, it binds to oxygen atoms and keeps your body from absorbing them. This becomes a problem when a person is disassociating and cannot notice the cues of their own body. They can accidentally inhale nitrous oxide for so long that they end up damaging their brain or even dying due to a lack of oxygen. The risk of asphyxiation is especially high if you inhale nitrous from a balloon, place a nitrous-filled bag over your head, or inhale from a nitrous-filled gas mask.
Another big problem is that whippets can cause a lot of accidents. This drug can make someone almost instantly lose control of their own muscles. While under the influence of whippets, people may fall down, walk into walls, or otherwise lose their ability to move or function. Whippet use is associated with broken bones, head injuries, and other similar issues. Many people also run into problems because they use whipped cream chargers incorrectly. Nitrous oxide drops to extremely low temperatures when it is quickly expelled from a high-pressure environment. Those who make the mistake of inhaling directly from a canister can get frostbite on the mouth, nose, or face.
Long-Term Health Issues
Those who repeatedly abuse nitrous oxide for long periods can develop chronic health problems. The exact effects of nitrous oxide are not fully understood. Some of the poor effects may be due to repeated asphyxiation, inhalation of problematic chemicals from industrial containers, or the fact that nitrous oxide reduces vitamin B12 absorption. Repeated use can result in these issues:
• Liver damage
• Kidney damage
• Brain or nerve damage
• Issues with coordination
• Difficulty hearing correctly
• Harm to fetal development
• Vision problems
• Bone marrow damage
• Tingling and numbness of extremities
Signs That Someone Is Using Whippets
Because whippets are so risky, it is important to be able to recognize when someone is repeatedly using nitrous oxide. Unless you happen to be around a person in the brief moments of intoxication, you might not recognize any obvious signs of being high. However, constant whippet abuse can still lead to some telltale signs. Your friends or family members might be using whippets if you notice one or more of these warning signs:
• Frequent complaints of a sore throat
• Unexplained facial rashes
• Strange bits of memory loss
• Reduced cognitive ability
• Possession of small metal canisters
• Becoming abnormally interested in whipped cream
• Strange odors on the breath
• Possession of deflated balloons that smell odd
In general, drug abuse is often associated with unexplained personality changes. A teen using whippets might suddenly have new friends and no longer be interested in old friends. Formerly bright and motivated teens may become apathetic and perform poorly in school. Those who were social often become withdrawn, and many may lose interest in their former hobbies. Some may have unexplained money issues or frequently show up with injuries they cannot explain.
Can You Become Addicted to Whippets?
Since nitrous oxide’s effects are so brief, many people make the mistake of thinking whippets are not addictive. However, the reality is that whippets can be just as addictive as other types of illegal drugs. Research has found that nitrous oxide interacts directly with the body’s opioid receptors. Therefore, it has the potential to be addictive, just like heroin or oxycodone.
That being said, whippet addiction is fairly rare. Because the drug is so short-acting, people have to repeatedly use large quantities of it to develop a physical addiction. If this happens, a person can experience all the symptoms of a classic substance use disorder. They may constantly chase the high feeling of nitrous oxide despite the problematic side effects, and when they quit using it, they may even experience some signs of withdrawal.
How to Identify a Whippet Addiction
Substance use disorders are medical conditions that can only be diagnosed by a doctor. However, there are a few warning signs that can mean it is time to talk to a doctor about potential addiction. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, these are the key symptoms of drug addiction:
• Constant cravings to use whippets
• Neglecting essential parts of life to use the drug instead
• Using whippets even if it puts your health at risk
• Being unable to stop using whippets
• Frequently taking more whippets than you meant to
• Continuing to use whippets despite negative consequences
What to Do When a Loved One Is Using Whippets
If you suspect that a loved one is using whippets, it is important to get them help right away. In some cases of mild drug abuse, simply educating a person on the real dangers of whippets may be enough to get them to stop. However, if the person is addicted, the situation is not so simple. It may be necessary to seek treatment for the substance use disorder. In a rehab center, a person can begin to heal and get the tools they need to fight addiction.
It is also important to address the issues that are causing drug use in the first place. Typically, happy, well-adjusted people do not center their life on drug abuse. It is a good idea to help your loved one seek therapy, so they can process whatever is triggering them to use drugs. Finding healthier coping methods and better ways of dealing with stress or anxiety can reduce the risk of a relapse.
At BlueCrest Recovery Center, we specialize in providing compassionate and effective treatment to those struggling with substance abuse. Our team offers a variety of helpful programs, so you can find the treatment that works best for you and your family. Depending on your needs, we can help you arrange an intervention, get therapy for co-occurring mental disorders, or schedule a stay at an inpatient center. Contact us today to learn more about our helpful services.