What Are Whippits?
Whippits, (Whip-its or Whippets) also called “laughing gas” or “hippy crack” is a slang term for steel cartridges filled with nitrous oxide. These steel carriages are used for charging whipped cream dispensers. Despite its potential for harm when abused, the steel canisters have a legal status in the United States. Although both these dispensers and the gas nitrous oxide are safe on their own, whippits can become addictive when used in excess. Nitrous oxide is an odorless gas that is popular for its euphoric qualities like reducing anxiety and its ability to produce a brief high. It can be highly addictive when used for these purposes.
In recent years, Detroit was a popular city for whippit use, with authorities uncovering 25,000 steel cartridges in streets and parking lots. Its recreational use has been on the rise all over the United States, remaining popular with children, adolescents, and those who attend nightclubs. Some musicians have advertised in their music, concerning those who feel younger people are vulnerable to influence regarding whippit use.
Some do not consider whippits a serious drug, however, SAMHSA has confirmed it to be one of the most popularly abused inhalants, more abused than gasoline, spray paint, and lighter fluid. The website notes 4.6% of individuals aged 12 to 17 have been reportedly misusing, while 5.6% of people 26 and older have used them. Lastly, a reported 11.8 million people reported misusing nitrous oxide in 2016.
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How Whippits Are Used
Whippits can become abused, leaving lasting effects on the person. Depending on their frequency of abuse, whippits pose both short-term and long-term health effects that range from memory loss to death. Whippits are inhalants that can take more time to become addicted to when compared to other inhalants. A major factor in this is how someone gets high and how nitrous oxide impacts the brain. When someone inhales whippits from the steel canisters, the result is a lack of oxygen that occurs to produce lightheadedness. While this differs from drugs that produce a strong euphoric rush, it still causes an anxiety-reducing sensation many enjoy.
Unfortunately, nitrous oxide can impact the brain’s function and the individual who inhales it goes for brief moments without oxygen. Those who abuse whippits can either inhale nitrous oxide directly through canisters or use crackers, which are devices used to crack open the canisters and inhale the gas directly. Balloons may be more convenient for some because they can get more gas from them, rather than utilizing cartridges. The individual would put the balloon to their mouth and inhale the gas for the same effects available in the other methods of whippit use. The effects of whippits can vary based on the drugs someone has used; the amount of nitrous oxide they have inhaled, if they have combined other drugs with it, and how often they have inhaled nitrous oxide.
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Short And Long-Term Effects Of Whippit Abuse
Those who abuse whippits risk short and long-term side effects. Initially, the brief euphoria when nitrous oxide is inhaled may be mild. The calming anti-anxiety effect may produce relaxation and the feeling of floating in the individual. Other reported short-term effects of whippits include:
Numbness in the body
Long-term effects of whippit abuse include:
Loss of blood pressure
Weakened immune system
Apoptosis (dead brain cells)
Depletion of vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 depletion occurs, which can encourage nerve damage. Overdose can occur due to a lack of oxygen (hypoxia). Effects can change based on the presence of other drugs. For example, alcohol and whippits can cause more confusion and disorientation. Signs of whippit abuse are often narrowed down to empty canisters, steel cartridges, and cracker paraphernalia. Physical signs of abuse include runny nose, red eyes, loss of appetite, sores around the mouth, and a drunk appearance. Whippit abuse can become more complicated if individuals use plastic bags over their heads while inhaling, moving or dancing while taking whippits, and combining whippits with other aerosol inhalants, alcohol, or drugs. This could signal a bigger problem with potentially fatal outcomes.
Ready To Get Help For Whippit Abuse?
Whippit abuse and addiction can have severe outcomes. Fortunately, understanding the effects can help you identify if you need help. If you find yourself becoming dependent on the effects of whippits, cannot control your intake, and endure moodiness if you’re not using them, consider medically-assisted treatment. Treatment allows for detox to occur, with the individual receiving support and hands-on monitoring when needed. Contact a treatment provider today to learn more.
Featured Centers Offering Treatment for Whippit Addiction
Ashish Bhatt, MD, MRO
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
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Dr. Bhatt has been Addiction Center's Medical Content Director for more than three years, providing his expertise to ensure quality and accuracy.
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Expert in adult and child psychiatry
Over 20 years of professional experience