Whippits are one of the most commonly abused inhalants, especially among young people. Because the substance is fairly easy to find and use, whippits have become increasingly popular in recent years. Although it may seem like a harmless drug at first, whippit abuse can lead to severe and possibly fatal health consequences.
If you or a loved one is using or considering using whippits, you should be aware of how they work and how they affect your body. Educating yourself on the risks of whippit abuse is one of the best ways to prevent yourself from developing a problem.
What Are Whippits?
Whippits are steel canisters of nitrous oxide that are found most commonly in whipped cream aerosol containers. Users might purchase whipped cream canisters and remove the nitrous oxide cartridges, or they may purchase the cartridges directly. Then, they crack open the cartridge and inhale the contents. This provides a short high that causes feelings of euphoria and relaxation.
Inhaling whippits can cause the following effects:
- Excitement or giddiness
- Uncontrollable laughter
- Mild hallucinations
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Blurred vision
These effects last between a few seconds and a couple of minutes. Many people, especially teenagers and young adults, use whippits when partying with friends. The health risks of the substance are not worth the high it provides, though.
Unlike many drugs, nitrous oxide is legal in the United States. Some states regulate the sale of nitrous oxide canisters to minors or limit the number of canisters you can buy in an effort to prevent misuse of the drug. In many states, the inhalation of nitrous oxide for its euphoric mental effects is illegal. However, one of the reasons whippits are such a dangerous substance is because they’re easy to find and purchase. Additionally, proving misuse or abuse of the drug is difficult.
Health Risks of Abusing Whippits
Whippits are such a dangerous drug because they prevent your brain from getting the oxygen it so vitally needs. As you inhale from the canister, the nitrous oxide fills your lungs, preventing or greatly reducing the amount of oxygen your body can take in. The oxygen levels in your blood and brain can drop dramatically, which can lead to a number of dire health risks. These risks are particularly severe if you inhale multiple whippits in a row.
The following are just a few of the many side effects and health risks of whippit abuse:
- Low blood pressure
- Heart, kidney, and liver damage
- Memory loss; long-term problems with memory
- Death of brain cells
Another health problem associated with whippit abuse is vitamin B12 depletion. Vitamin B12 plays an essential role in forming red blood cells, so a deficiency can lead to nerve damage and problems with your circulatory system.
Nitrous oxide is often used by medical professionals for sedation and pain management during or after surgery. In these instances, though, the nitrous oxide is mixed with oxygen. This ensures that your brain and body are receiving the oxygen necessary to stay healthy while also experiencing the anesthetic benefits of the drug. Whipped cream canisters do not contain any oxygen, which is why inhaling the gas on your own is unsafe.
Are Whippits Addictive?
Addiction to whippits has not been as widely researched as addiction to many other drugs. The substance may not cause a chemical dependence that leads to physical withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it. Any substance or activity that makes you feel good can be mentally and emotionally addictive, though.
The euphoric effects of inhaling a whippit only last about a minute. In some cases, people only feel the effects for 10 to 20 seconds. Because the high is so short-lived, many users mistakenly think that the drug is safe to use. However, after feeling the effects of the substance, you may find yourself wanting more and more. A couple minutes of the high may not be enough, so you seek out more cartridges and start to use the drug habitually.
This is especially true if you use whippits as a coping mechanism for feelings of anxiety, stress, or depression. Your mind can get hooked on anything that provides temporary relief from your troubles, so even if your body doesn’t crave the drug, you can develop a substance use disorder.
Statistics on Whippits
- According to the 2019 Global Drug Survey, whippits are among the top 10 most used drugs.
- In 2013, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that over 21 million Americans have abused inhalants at some point in their lives.
- Almost 12 million people in the U.S. reported abusing nitrous oxide in 2016.
- About 4.6 percent of teens aged 12 to 17 have misused inhalants, and 5.6 percent of people aged 26 and older reported misusing inhalants.
- Several studies and surveys from the last 10 years suggest that whippit use is increasing.
Signs of Whippit Abuse
The most obvious sign of whippit abuse is cracked whipped cream cans or nitrous oxide canisters. Deflated balloons can be another warning sign as people sometimes use balloons to inhale nitrous oxide.
Nitrous oxide stored in whipped cream canisters is extremely cold, so people who abuse this drug may frequently have a sore throat or facial rashes. You might also notice that the person often seems confused or disoriented.
Treating Whippit Abuse
Any substance use disorder deserves professional support. If you or a loved one is struggling with inhalant abuse, you should reach out for help. Your doctor may prescribe a vitamin B12 supplement to replenish your body’s vitamin B12 stores and keep your nerves healthy. They’ll also assess whether your body has sustained any other damage from the drug.
If you use whippits as a way to escape from stress or psychological problems, you should reach out to a qualified mental health professional. Whippits may provide short-term relief, but substance abuse is never a healthy, long-term answer to your concerns. Despite nitrous oxide being legal, this substance is highly dangerous and should not be used outside of medical supervision.