Are Whippets a dangerous drug?

Whippets are the street name for the nitrous oxide filled steel cartridges used in whipped cream dispensers. Nitrous oxide has been a safe method of sedation, commonly used by dentists. Commonly known as laughing gas, nitrous oxide is often used as a recreational drug because it produces relaxing, euphoric and dissociative effects. And because they are legal and easy to obtain, whippets are especially popular with teenagers.

What are whippets and why are they dangerous?

Whippets are not a new drug, but their popularity, use and abuse are making a comeback. The active ingredient in whippets, nitrous oxide, while safe when used properly to relieve pain and reduce anxiety before dental procedures, can cause severe and irreversible brain damage and even death in some cases.

Nitrous oxide cartridges are readily available online and in shops for use in whipped cream boxes and homemade cold nitrous preparation systems. However, just because they are widely available and widespread does not mean that whippets are safe for recreational use.

What to know about whippets as drugs

Whippets are psychoactive drugs classified as inhalants, just like glue, spray paint and poppers. People who consume whippets inhale nitrous oxide from cartridges in different ways. Whippets are the most widely used inhalant in the country and are used by millions of people each year.

Whippets are not like other substances

Whippets are not like other drugs in the way they interact with the brain. For example, when a person uses cocaine, MDMA or opiods, the substance causes the brain’s reward centre to release beneficial chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. Whippets are different. Instead of tricking or mimicking the brain’s reward centre, the nitrous oxide in whippets interrupts the brain’s oxygen supply, interfering with other pathways. When a person inhales the whippet, they may laugh uncontrollably, feel numbness in their arms and legs and feel euphoric. However, this feeling lasts only a very short time, a minute or two. The very short duration of euphoria makes whippets extremely vulnerable to abuse.

Why do whippets hurt?

Just because nitrous oxide is safe when used clinically, does not mean that whippets are harmless when consumed. Recreational use of whippets presents several serious health risks. Dentists and doctors often administer oxygen along with nitrous oxide to ensure patient safety and prevent brain damage.

When people abuse whippets, they tend to consume many rounds in a short period of time. This excessive consumption bombards your central nervous system with much larger amounts of nitrous oxide than you would receive in a dentist’s office. With large amounts of nitrous oxide, the brain and body are severely deprived of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels rise. This can lead to fainting, coma and ultimately death.

What are the negative health effects of whippets?

Using whippets, even just once, can cause some negative side effects, including:

  • Dizziness
  • Psychiatric Symptoms
  • Hallucinations
  • Altered Brain Function
  • Impaired Motor Function
  • Peripheral Nerve Damage
  • Cardiovascular Damage
  • Organ Damage
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Paralysis

The long-term health consequences of nitrous oxide abuse can occur instantly and can include:

  • Sudden and irreversible brain damage, seizures, loss of lung function.
  • Inability to process vitamin B12, which is essential for brain function and can lead to death.
  • Brain damage similar to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, commonly known as ‘wet brain’.

How do people use whippets?

Whippets are small metal containers that look like mini tanks. Users who inhale whippets need to find a way to get them out of their container so they can inhale them into their lungs and experience the euphoric effects.

Huffing Whippet

Sometimes users inhale nitrous oxide into the cartridge. There are various instruments for this method.


Some users fill a balloon with the contents of the container, in the same way as they fill a balloon with helium. Then, when the balloon is full, they inhale the nitrous oxide contained in the balloon.

Whipping cream dispensers

Whipped cream consumers often use special whipped cream dispensers, as supermarket whipped cream boxes can freeze quickly and burn the user’s hands. Special used whip cream dispensers are designed for commercial or home use. Some are even designed specifically for inhaling whipped cream, but are marketed as household utensils.

Are whippets addictive?

Yes, whippets can be addictive. People who use whippets regularly can become addicted to the euphoric feeling, especially when taken with other drugs such as MDMA or cocaine. However, you cannot become physically dependent on whippets in the same way you can with alcohol or opioids.

Final thoughts on whippets

Whippet and laughing gas are street names for nitrous oxide, which is a safe method of sedation when used properly by dentists and doctors to relieve pain and anxiety in their patients. They administer it carefully while providing supplemental oxygen. However, when people use it recreationally, they expose themselves to serious health risks, including severe brain damage, organ damage, seizures and death. While you cannot become physically dependent on whippets, you can become addicted to them. If this occurs, it is important to seek professional help as soon as possible to avoid negative medical problems in the future.

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