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What Are Whippets?

a woman struggles with whippet addiction in a dark room

Whippets aren’t new to the drug scene, but they’re making a comeback, particularly among young people. The active substance in whippets, nitrous oxide, is used by dentists before specific procedures to reduce anxiety and pain. However, people can get nitrous oxide cartridges for whipped cream containers or cold brew systems. So, what are whippets? Can you get addicted to them? Are they dangerous? The short answer is yes; they are both addictive and dangerous.

If you or a loved one is struggling with inhalant abuse and looking for a drug addiction treatment program in Florida, Lighthouse Recovery Institute can help.

What Are Whippets?

Whippets are very easy to obtain since they’re not illegal. You can find them online or in stores without a problem. They have no noticeable smell, so their recreational use among teenagers and young adults is increasing. However, whippets, whips, or whip-its, are psychoactive drugs classified as inhalants. According to data, whippets are the most popular inhalant in the United States. 

Researchers believe whippets actually cut off the brain’s oxygen supply and interfere with different pathways, unlike other substances. This is why people who use whippets lose sensations in their limbs, feel euphoric, and start laughing uncontrollably. However, this feeling only lasts for about a minute or two, which causes people to abuse these substances. 

How Do People Use Whippets?

Most often, to use Whippets, people inhale the contents of a nitrous oxide cartridge. However, there are other ways to use whippets that make it look harmless:

  • People will fill a balloon with nitrous oxide and then inhale the contents like they would with a helium balloon.
  • People who abuse whippets have had whipped cream dispensers or certain types of glue or paint for easy and covert abuse for decades, but these days you can find some items explicitly designed for inhaling whippets, marketed for home use.

Health Problems from Inhalant Nitrous Oxides

Overall, nitrous oxide is safe when used under medical supervision. However, it’s the recreational use and abuse that can be dangerous. Because the side effects of whippets are so short, they’re likely to use large amounts over a short period of time. Elevated levels of nitrous oxide can deprive the brain and body of oxygen and cause levels to surge. This can often lead to blackouts, comas, or sudden death. 

Some long-term effects of nitrous oxide abuse include hypoxia or sudden oxygen deprivation. This triggers the central nervous system and causes damage that can produce paralysis in extremities and severe organ damage.

Experts believe it can also cause irreversible brain damage, seizures, and lung function loss over time. Additionally, whippit abuse can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12, an essential nutrient for brain function. This would explain why brain damage from nitrous abuse looks similar to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, also known as “wet brain” syndrome.

Can Whippets be Addictive?

Absolutely. Because whippets cause euphoric effects, people can quickly start abusing the substance. Over time, whippet users will likely combine it with other substances like cocaine or MDMA. However, unlike other drugs, people don’t develop a dependence on nitrous oxide as the substance doesn’t interact with the brain’s reward system. 

Of course, people can have an addiction without physical dependence. This is more of a psychological addiction of someone trying to recreate that same “high” or euphoric feeling. It’s common for whippet users to struggle with depression and other mood disorders. Thus their nitrous oxide abuse works as a facade for their illness. 

Symptoms of Inhalant Abuse

While only one misuse can end up causing serious and life-long consequences like potential brain damage, inhalants can be habitually abused. Knowing what to look for is vital when you suspect inhalant addiction. Some signs and symptoms of regular inhalant abuse include:

  • A euphoric or seemingly-drunken demeanor or appearance
  •  Red eyes and a runny nose
  • Appetite loss
  • New or worsening anxiety or paranoia
  • Sores around the mouth and unusual-smelling breath
  • Paint or other stains on the face or clothes

It is vital to seek help for an inhalant addiction, as there are serious risks involved with their use. Several treatment options can help break an inhalant addiction, such as safe detox programs, inpatient and outpatient rehab programs, and aftercare programs to help maintain sobriety beyond treatment.

Finding Help

Whether you call it laughing gas, whippets, or whippits, these are highly dangerous substances. If you or someone you know is abusing whippets, please know there is help available. Whippets can lead the way to other drugs like heroin or cocaine. About 4.7% of whippet users are over the age of 12, and 5.2% are over 26. The way nitrous oxide affects the brain can lead to long-term damage to the brain, causing a lifetime of troubles. 

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, it is our mission to help those struggling with substance abuse disorders. If you or someone you know is struggling with inhalant abuse, reach out for help. Our addiction counselors can help you find the best rehab program to fit your needs. We count on unique, comprehensive programs that address addiction from every possible angle to help you live a drug-free life. Don’t hesitate to call our admissions office at 866.308.2090 today and discuss our addiction treatment programs to start your road to recovery.