Last Updated on June 6, 2024 by Dr. Alberto Solà

In some social circles, the small canisters of nitrous oxide called whippits are an extremely popular way to get a quick jolt of euphoria. But today’s partygoers may be surprised to learn that recreational nitrous oxide isn’t a new trend; there have been recorded uses of it dating back to the 1800s, not long after the gas was first manufactured and introduced to medical and dental offices. Although a whippits high may be a current fad, it does share one important similarity to nitrous oxide use of the past: they both carry side effects and pose risks, especially if the gas is consumed frequently.

Whippits (sometimes called whip-its or whippets) or nitrous oxide cartridges or canisters are part of the group of substances known as inhalants. This means that users inhale vapors from the substance in order to get high. Inhalants typically hit the bloodstream via the lungs quickly for a rapid burst of excitement that is relatively short-lived. Another thing inhalants often have in common is that they can be derived from everyday objects. Whippits are used in aerosol containers, while other potential inhalants include felt-tip pens, glue, cleaning solvents, and paint.

According to a 2019 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 13 million Americans aged 12 and older had misused nitrous oxide in their lifetime.  Teens may not ask themselves they are whippits dangerous because whippits are, like most inhalants, easily available and relatively inexpensive; plus, because they are common items found in many households, inhalant use is frequently simple to hide from others. Inhalants, including whippits, can often be the first “drug” a young person ever uses, and it could lead to misuse or abuse of other substances down the road. Whippits may seem like a fun, recreational source for a cheap high, but the risks and side effects will linger long after the high wears off. Read on to learn more about whippets and the many dangers that come along with their use.

What Are Whippets?

In a medical setting, nitrous oxide is used for anesthetic purposes for pain relief. Some people call nitrous oxide laughing gas because it gives the patient or user a light and airy feeling that can sometimes result in feelings of laughter. When used in a medical setting, nitrous oxide is safe. In these situations, it’s only used briefly to offer relief during a procedure. Because its effects fade quickly, the patient can quickly go on with his or her day immediately after their doctor or dentist visit.

When people use whippets medically or recreationally, this drug is inhaled. Once the gas is inhaled, the user will immediately feel the effects. The amount of nitrous oxide that is administered to a patient during a dental or medical procedure can be controlled by a medical professional. Often, a low flow of nitrous oxide will be administered ongoing throughout a procedure to keep the patient comfortable.

However, when whippets are used recreationally, many people inhale larger quantities of this gas over a longer period of time and often inhale much more nitrous oxide than they should. Recreational nitrous oxide can be inhaled directly from a canister or dispenser, or in some cases, it’s dispensed into a balloon, and then it is inhaled from the balloon. In all of the above cases, users are in danger of not getting enough oxygen while inhaling this gas, and that can be highly dangerous.

Whippets Use and Legal Landscape

Are whippets legal? Yes. Nitrous oxide is sold in small cartridges for making whipped cream and is available in most states at kitchen and restaurant supply stores. Because of their legality and popularity, they are also available at other types of stores like smoke shops and adult stores as well. Further, small cartridges and larger canisters can be ordered by mail as well. In many states, people can also buy nitrous oxide in much larger, compressed gas, steel tanks as well and can have them delivered to their homes, or can have their own tank filled at a distribution center.

Whippets are legal, but in most places, people buying nitrous oxide must be over the age of 18 or 21; however, not every provider checks to see if customers are over the legal age.

Also, although the inhalation of nitrous oxide for recreational purposes is illegal in many places, when it is consumed in private, all of the above laws are difficult to enforce. In other places, personal use is legal, but unlicensed sale is not. But again, law enforcement finds it difficult to catch and enforce people who use nitrous oxide in this manner.  Because of these issues, the use of nitrous oxide is on the rise nearly everywhere and among people of all ages and all walks of life.

Health Implications of Whippets

Misuse of nitrous oxide can be dangerous. This gas is reasonably safe when administered under the supervision of a medical professional, but when people use nitrous oxide recreationally, the amount consumed is often much more than someone would inhale in a medical setting.

When people inhale whippets, they’ll experience enjoyable effects that seem positive at first. Users may enjoy a tingling sensation, relaxation, and feeling high and airy. However, with continued use, these positive effects may soon give way to feelings of dizziness, tiredness, and nausea for some. Some may find they lose their balance and may experience slurred speech as well.

Even though these negative side effects of whippets may seem minor to recreational users, continued use can cause much bigger problems like brain damage, liver damage, kidney damage, and nerve damage.  Heart rate changes and low blood pressure can lead to bigger health problems as well.  Some people may experience breathing difficulties or even arm and leg spasms. Sometimes, users may even “fish out” and have a seizure from nitrous oxide use.

One long-term effect that can be a major issue is caused by the fact that nitrous oxide causes vitamin B12 to deplete. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to a wide variety of health problems such as anemia, celiac disease, immune system disorders, lupus, and other conditions.

All of these dangers of whippets are noteworthy. Many people believe this drug is harmless, but that’s not the case.  Can whippets kill you? It’s possible, indeed.

Addiction and Dependency of Whippets

Are whippets addictive? They certainly can be. A whippet’s high can be quite enjoyable for recreational users, and some people may find it difficult to stop chasing that high after a long period of use. Whippet effects fade quickly, so people who want to keep the high going must continue to buy more and use more to keep the feeling alive. This can be extremely dangerous, especially since today, whippets are widely available and accessible.

People who use whippets recreationally need to be aware of the potential for addiction. It can be a very costly habit and one that can do much damage to one’s health. If you feel that you are using nitrous oxide in an unsafe manner but cannot quit on your own, you should seek addiction recovery support to help you break free from this dangerous habit.

Addressing the Whippets Issue

Because the use of nitrous oxide is on the rise, people must be made aware of the dangers of this seemingly innocuous drug. Inhaling this drug recreationally may seem fun and safe at first, but the short and long-term side effects can be threatening to one’s health and even to their life. The use of this drug should not be taken lightly. Like other drugs, it’s unhealthy to use nitrous oxide on a regular or even occasional basis, and continued misuse can quickly escalate to dependency and addiction.

It would be wise if this drug was better regulated. However, because it is not, the best way to keep people safe from nitrous oxide addiction at this point is education.

If you’re thinking about using nitrous oxide recreationally, you should reconsider. If you use it recreationally already, you should stop. If you feel that you have a dependency on or are addicted to nitrous oxide, help is available for you, and you should seek it out.

If you are struggling with dependency or addiction to nitrous oxide, we can help. At one of the best ibogaine treatment centers, we are standing by to help you break free from your addictions and to find the root of the problems that led to them in the first place. Our facility in Cancun, Mexico is staffed with people who are experienced in addiction recovery services, and our innovative ibogaine treatment has helped many before you. We are standing by to answer any questions you have, and we can’t wait to hear from you. Please contact us today.