What Are Whippets? Addiction, Effects & Withdrawal
What are whippets? Another name for nitrous oxide, whippets are widely used as recreational inhalants. It’s named after the aerosol cans used to dispense whipped cream, which people open in order to inhale the gas inside. Medical professionals often utilize nitrous oxide as a form of anesthesia to alleviate pain. This type of anesthetic is frequently used by dentists and in other healthcare facilities. It is entirely safe when it is given by a qualified medical expert but misuse of the gas has been on the rise in recent years.
Nitrous oxide can create a feeling of euphoria, so it is sometimes abused by those looking to get high. While it does not have the same influence on the brain’s pleasure center as other drugs that are addictive, it is still able to induce the sensation of a rush and an experience of being weightless.
In the United States, inhalants like whippets are among the most misused substances. Whippet abuse is especially prevalent among young people because products containing nitrous oxide are legal, easy to find, and are often mistakenly thought to be harmless.
What Happens When You Use Whippets?
Whippets are typically used by huffing the nitrous oxide gas inside aerosol canisters. Some people inhale the nitrous oxide directly from the canister while others use a balloon to catch the gas and then inhale it from the balloon.
Inhaling whippets produces a feeling of euphoria, as the chemicals interact with the central nervous system of the body. Individuals report experiencing tingling sensations, particularly in the limbs. They may sense vibrations or warmth and may even have a sensation of floating. These sensations are caused because the inhalation of the gas blocks the brain’s oxygen supply, resulting in a slowdown of brain function.
The effects of whippet usage tend to be short-lived, which leads to many users “huffing,” or inhaling, the fumes repeatedly in order to prolong the high. This can lead to psychological addiction and health issues further down the road.
Other Commonly Used Names
Other names commonly used for whippets include:
- Nitrous Oxide
- Laughing Gas
- Hippy Crack
Are Whippets Illegal?
One of the reasons that whippet abuse has become so prevalent is because products that contain nitrous oxide are not typically illegal. Although it’s against the law in multiple states for minors to purchase products containing the gas, many stores do not enforce it. The ready availability of the substance and the lack of negative legal repercussions have made it popular with adolescents and adults alike.
Recreational Use in Adolescents
It is estimated that almost 22 million people in the US aged 12 or above have abused inhalants at least once in their lifetimes.
The use of inhalants as drugs first rose to prominence in the 1960s when adolescents began huffing glue. Even now, inhalants are mainly used by teenagers and young adults.
Nitrous oxide abuse isn’t safe for anyone, but young people are much more likely to develop a substance use disorder. Whippets are among the most misused inhalants in America, and while a lot of adolescents may assume they are not dangerous, this is far from reality.
A study conducted on American adults revealed that people who used inhalants at a young age also reported taking other habit-forming drugs, and were more likely to develop substance abuse issues later in life compared to those who did not use inhalants.
Are Whippets Addictive?
Whippets are not thought to be addictive on a physical level. This means that nitrous oxide itself lacks the qualities that make other drugs habit-forming and users are not likely to experience physical withdrawal symptoms. Although not physically addictive, individuals may become psychologically dependent on the drug, desiring to use it over and over again to obtain the feeling of euphoria. They may display addict-like behavior, acting irrationally or going to great lengths in order to get more of the substance.
While whippets aren’t typically physically addictive, there is still a danger of becoming psychologically dependent on them. Your brain is attracted to the sensation of euphoria that nitrous oxide brings and this alters the reward center of your brain, making you have an increased craving for it.
Inhalation of a foreign substance such as nitrous oxide can also have physical long-term effects. Adolescents are at an even higher risk of developing complications because their bodies and minds are still developing.
These effects can include:
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Damage to the nose, throat, and lungs
- Damage to many major organs
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Low blood pressure
- Hypoxia (low levels of oxygen)
- Erratic heart rate
- Nerve damage
- Brain damage
- Weight loss
- Behavioral or developmental delays
- Increased chance of future mental health issues
- Chance of birth defects (for pregnant users)
Although rare, death can occur from whippet use. Death from sniffing or huffing can happen without warning, regardless of how old someone is or how frequently they have used the substance. Sudden sniffing death is a situation where a person’s heart stops beating within a few minutes of inhaling the gas. It is estimated that between 100 and 200 people die annually due to inhalant abuse.
Other Types of Inhalant Use
Many every day items can be abused for recreational use. These materials are not created to be used in this manner but people nevertheless abuse them for the purpose of getting high.
Other commonly abused materials can include items like:
- Solvents (such as paint thinner or lighter fluid)
- Spray Paint
- Nitrites (typically found in cleaning solutions)
Signs of Whippet Addiction in a Loved One
Because of its short lifespan, it may be difficult to tell if someone is addicted to whippets. Inhalants typically aren’t detectable on a drug test the way many other addictive drugs are. Due to these factors, it is important to pay close attention for signs of whippet abuse.
Signs of substance abuse may include:
- Secretive behavior
- Chemical smells on the individual
- Chronic cough or sniffing
- Slurred speech
- Loss of coordination
- Weight loss
- Hallucinations or erratic behavior
- Empty, unexplained aerosol containers
- Marks like burns around the face
Treatment for Whippet Addiction in Louisville, Kentucky
The usage of Whippets can have detrimental consequences on your physical health, domestic life, work, schooling, alliances, and finances. If you or someone you care about is struggling with the effects of these medications, it is essential to seek assistance.
Louisville Recovery Center is committed to helping people who are dealing with dependence on drugs and alcohol. Experienced medical care is immensely important for various reasons; it can provide instruction to those struggling with addiction about their reliance on drugs, help them through a safe detox process, identify what has caused their addiction, and offer instruction on how to develop better strategies for handling stress and staying sober. Addiction is unique, so treatment should be too. We individualized your recovery plan to you in order to give you the best chance at long-term sobriety.
If you or a loved one in the Louisville area is battling with whippet dependency, Louisville Recovery Center is here to help. We have a team of highly trained staff members waiting to give you the help you need to get, and stay, sober. Reach out to us today for more information.