For years, nitrous oxide has been a safe and medically prescribed pain treatment. Some people abuse nitrous oxide as a recreational drug for its euphoric, relaxing, and dissociative effects. Known as whippits, this drug is a common ingredient in whipped cream dispensers. Because whippits are legal and so easy to obtain, they are especially popular among teens. If you’re concerned a loved one may be abusing whippits, these 11 facts are what you need to know.
11. Nitrous Oxide Has Been Around for a Long Time
First among the 11 whippits facts: Dr. Horace Wells pioneered the use of nitrous oxide as a pain reliever in 1844. He administered the drug to 12-15 of his dental patients with great success. Soon after, nitrous oxide was hailed as an exciting new pain medication. Its use was broadly adopted by the Colton Dental Association clinics in 1863.
10. Whippits, Whippets, Whip-Its: All One and the Same
There is a lot of confusion about what, exactly, whippits are. In case you’re confused, whippits, whippets, and whip-its all refer to nitrous oxide being used as a recreational drug. Whippits are a type of inhalant, which, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is an inhaled drug that is easily accessible and common in the home.
One of the most popular ways to inhale whippits is via whipped cream dispensers. However, inhaling the gas from the canister is difficult and causes frostbite, so people often release the gas into a balloon. The balloon warms the gas up, making it easier to inhale.
9. Whippits Are a Real Problem
While inhalant abuse, commonly known as “huffing,” is often not taken seriously, it is a real problem. According to the “2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health” conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 21 million Americans have abused inhalants. Whippits are just one of a number of inhalants that are abused.
Unfortunately, teens and young people often have a false sense of security about whippits. They feel safe experimenting with a familiar, household product, not knowing its potential for abuse and addiction. And that’s scary, because when misused, whippits are far from harmless.
8. Young People Are Especially at Risk of Using Whippits
Teens often do not realize the dangers of recreational drug use. Moreover, because whippits are so easy to acquire and they’re legal, teens feel comfortable using them heavily. While it can be difficult to obtain illegal substances, whippits are available at the grocery store, making them a popular choice for teenagers searching for a way to get high.
7. Nitrous Oxide Abuse Can Be Life-Threatening
Whippits produce a rapid, short-lasting high, which encourages teens to abuse them again and again. Continuous inhalation of nitrous oxide at higher concentrations can be life-threatening, as the brain is deprived of oxygen. For example, using whippits with a bag over your head, or nitrous oxide tanks with a face mask or in a small enclosed space, like a car, can result in irreversible brain damage and death. In some people, even minimal nitrous oxide abuse can provoke seizures, aspiration, irregular heart rhythms, trauma, or loss of lung or heart function that may be fatal. The lethality of nitrous oxide abuse is even greater when nitrous oxide is used with other drugs or alcohol.
6. Whippets Can Damage Your Organs
As mentioned, under the right circumstances and with long-term use, whippit abuse can cause serious organ damage and death. Organs at risk of damage include the brain, lungs, heart, kidneys, and liver, according to the American Association for Clinical Chemistry. Greater risk of lung injury and frostbite of the mouth, nose, and vocal cords occur when nitrous oxide is inhaled directly from the canister.
5. Nitrous Oxide Is Safe when Prescribed
While whippits can have many dangerous side effects, nitrous oxide is routinely prescribed by medical professionals. You may know nitrous oxide as “laughing gas,” but it isn’t just limited to dentistry. It’s also used to help women with labor pains and to treat pain in traumatic injuries and medical emergencies.
Nitrous oxide is safe in a medical environment because medical professionals ensure that the patient is getting plenty of oxygen. Medical monitoring aids in the prevention of complications and treatment of adverse reactions to the drug.
4. Whippits Are Addictive
We do not know exactly how nitrous oxide alters the brain’s reward system to result in addiction. However, medical research suggests that nitrous oxide’s effect on the body’s opioid system may be partly responsible for its potential for abuse and addiction. If a person is finding it difficult to stop using whippits, or is experiencing significant consequences from using them, they may have a nitrous oxide addiction. Of these 11 whippits facts, this one is especially important to share with anyone you suspect may be abusing nitrous oxide.
3. There Are Signs of Whippit Abuse to Watch For
If you suspect that your loved one is abusing whippits, there are important signs to be aware of. First, keep an eye out for cracked whipped cream cans. People who abuse whippits will often break open canisters to obtain the nitrous oxide inside. Additionally, you might notice a lot of odd-smelling balloons lying around. Because they’re such a popular receptacle for nitrous oxide, balloons are commonly found in the homes of people who abuse whippits.
2. B12 May Help Treat Complications of Whippit Abuse
Abusing whippits can prevent your body from producing enough active vitamin B12. This deficiency from whippit abuse may result in a variety of health problems, most notably:
- Balance problems
- Numbness and tingling
- Memory problems
- Mood changes, paranoia, and delusions
Thankfully, there are ways to treat these concerning whippits side effects. Taking a vitamin B12 supplement can minimize these effects while your body is recovering from whippits. As part of your recovery treatment, you can take this supplement to help prevent your mind and body from developing new problems while you’re in recovery.
1. Nitrous Oxide Abuse Is Treatable
The good news is that there are plenty of drug rehabilitation programs that can provide a safe detox and recovery from whippits. Of these 11 facts about whippits, this fact is the most important one to remember. If you believe you or a loved one may have a problem with nitrous oxide abuse or addiction, reach out to our admissions department at 407-449-8410 or online to get help today.