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) 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 2017 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 1.8 million people reported inhalant use, with the highest use among people ages 12 to 17. In that age group, roughly 112,000 teens said they have used whippits or other forms of nitrous oxide at least once in their lifetime. Teens may not ask themselves, 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.

How to Use Whippits

Whippits get their name from whipped cream—the nitrous oxide cartridges are used in aerosol containers to aerate the cream and give it a light and fluffy texture. Typically, a steel canister holds 8 grams of nitrous oxide. Whippit users either inhale the gas directly from an empty or full whipped cream container, or they transfer the nitrous oxide into a balloon and inhale it from there. There is an ensuing sense of relaxation and good feeling but because it wears off quickly, users may be tempted to take multiple whippit hits during a short period of time.

The prevalence and popularity of whippits has grown in recent years because the canisters are readily available and cheap—they can be purchased in smoke shops, online, and even grocery and kitchen supply stores. But these attributes that make whippits so appealing as a recreational drug also make them dangerous because of the inherent risk involved.

Are Whippits Dangerous?

When used as intended—whether in a whipped cream container or as a sedative during a medical procedure—nitrous oxide is generally considered safe. When it’s used to get a whippit high, however, certain risks are introduced.

Nitrous oxide is fast acting, quickly hitting the bloodstream after inhalation. For users, that immediate sense of euphoria is one of the attractions, but there are certain side effects that can also occur. These can include nausea, headaches, blurry vision, numbness, sleepiness, and either sweating or chills. People also may tend to feel dizzy or uninhibited, and they can experience an overwhelming surge of joy (there’s a reason why nitrous oxide is also known as laughing gas) or hallucinations.

There are also certain risks. For people asking, what are whippits, they may think the canisters don’t contain enough gas to cause lasting problems. However, if too many whippits are inhaled at once, that may lead to an overconsumption of nitrous oxide, which in turn can cause a drop in blood pressure, heart attack, or fainting or loss of consciousness. Because throwing up is another side effect of whippit use, blacking out can be especially dangerous if a user chokes on the vomit.

Long-term whippit use also poses problems. Some people have reported memory loss, a numb feeling or spasms in their extremities, depression, decreased immunity response, hearing difficulties, and memory loss. Also, nitrous oxide can lower levels of Vitamin B12 in the body, and over time that can lead to damage in the central nervous system; as a result, users may be plagued with troublesome sensations of tingling, pain, or numbness in the arms or legs. There have been cases where people experienced weak muscles, difficulty walking, and decreased fine motor skills, among other issues.

Finally, nitrous oxide use needs to be counterbalanced with oxygen, which helps get rid of the gas from the body. If someone doesn’t get enough oxygen, that can bring a serious risk of hypoxia (inadequate oxygen supply), which can cause organ damage or possibly death. When nitrous oxide is used in medical offices, trained technicians administer the proper amount of both the gas and the oxygen and keep an eye on the patient to ensure safety. Recreational users, however, don’t have that safety net, which can increase their risk considerably.

What Are Whippets Treatment Programs?

It is all too easy to misuse whippits and become dependent on nitrous oxide, to the potential detriment of your health. The risks are present, whether you use whippits one time at a party or if you develop a habit and use them frequently. If you are concerned about an overreliance on whippits or nitrous oxide, seek professional treatment at our ibogaine clinic. Our team of medical professionals strives to give all patients the chance for a successful recovery through the use of ibogaine as part of an individualized treatment program. Contact us today to learn more about our services.