An increase in knowledge regarding the physical effects of nitrous oxide (N2O) abuse – combined with the relative ease in acquiring the gas – has created an increase in reports of whippet addiction. Whippets are small metal containers filled with N2O that are typically used to refill reusable whipped cream containers. Increasingly, though, they’re used recreationally. 

The nitrous oxide in whippets provides the user with a feeling of euphoria when inhaled. Since it’s used inside dental and medical offices – often referred to as “laughing gas” – most people will experience its low-dosage effects at some point. As recreational use of the drug becomes more popular at concerts and festivals, though, serious health risks are becoming apparent.  

While the majority of people who misuse nitrous oxide do so infrequently, there’s an increasing number of individuals facing whippet addiction. Misusing this inhalant even once can be fatal, but long-term users who never overdose can still experience life-threatening side effects. If you or someone you love is addicted to whippets, the time to seek treatment is now. 

Whippet Addiction Symptoms

The term “whippet” is only used in reference to the misuse of the small metal containers typically used for nitrous oxide. If you’ve ever abused this substance, you likely used a balloon, gas cracker, or whipped cream dispenser to inhale it. Infrequent use doesn’t necessarily mean you have an addiction, but continued misuse can lead to dependency or even death. 

You may be under the impression that you don’t have a whippet addiction simply because you’ve experienced no serious repercussions from its use. The euphoric feeling after inhalation only lasts a few moments, and even though using whippets recreationally is illegal, it’s completely lawful for an individual to own them. This creates minimal legal risk. 

These facts alone, however, do not indicate a lack of dependency on the drug. If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, it may be time to seek help:

  • Taking multiple hits throughout the day. 
  • Repeated accidental injuries. 
  • Spending more time acquiring, using, and recovering from use. 
  • Negative outcomes at work, school, or in relationships. 
  • Persistent use even after negative outcomes. 
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency. 
  • Weakness, balance problems, and other symptoms of B12 deficiency. 
  • Persistent numbness.
  • Hallucinations. 
  • Using as self-medication for other conditions (e.g. anxiety). 

These whippet addiction symptoms may not present themselves unless repeated use occurs. This doesn’t mean that danger doesn’t exist with infrequent use. There have been cases where individuals with no underlying substance abuse disorder have experienced sudden sniffing death. Even otherwise young and healthy people can die from this on their first use of the drug. 

Unlike other substances, whippet doesn’t cause physical dependence to develop. While it has many of the same effects as other addictive narcotics – such as sensation depression, alteration of brain functioning, and pain relief – there is no chemical mechanism that creates physical dependency. Unfortunately, psychological dependence is a common outcome. 

If your whippet addiction has led to psychological dependence, you may experience the following symptoms when attempting to quit:

  • Extreme agitation or mood alteration. 
  • Desire to get the drug by any means necessary. 
  • Continuous craving of the drug. 
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression. 

The important thing to remember when experiencing quasi-withdrawal symptoms after ending whippet use is that they’re all in the mind. They’re not as serious as other forms of withdrawal, and in many people, these equate to nothing more than a persistent feeling that they could get a great feeling if they just had one whippet. 

Even those whose whippet addiction doesn’t lead to short-term negative outcomes are not free from consequences. Increased research into this area has shown that persistent use of nitrous oxide inhalants can lead to long-term and potentially fatal symptoms. Before you decide to continue the use of “hippie crack,” consider these potential health outcomes:

  • Damage to bone marrow. 
  • Kidney and liver damage. 
  • Hearing loss. 
  • Limb spasms and coordination loss due to nerve damage. 
  • Stunted behavioral development due to brain damage). 
  • Numbness in hands and feet. 
  • Anemia. 
  • Psychosis.
  • Pregnancy dangers such as birth defects. 

While some of the worst symptoms of whippet addiction happen over the long-term, there are certain physical reactions immediately following use that should not be ignored. If you experience seizures, headaches, shortness of breath, extremities turning blue, or worsening cough, you may be having a whippet overdose. If so, seek immediate medical attention. 

It’s unfortunate that whippet abuse isn’t taken as seriously as other drug addiction. If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, though, it’s time to recognize that misuse is a real problem. If you think you or a loved one has developed an addiction to whippets or other inhalants, contact Transformations Treatment Center today for information on overcoming dependency. 

Signs of Whippet Addiction

One of the main signs of any addiction is that the person using a drug will deny abuse. This can make it particularly difficult to know if a loved one has a substance dependency, and in cases where a drug is prescribed by a doctor, it’s easy to claim that use is therapeutic. This isn’t the case with whippets, but identifying potential abuse of this drug has its own set of difficulties. 

One of the driving factors in the popularity of whippets is their relatively low cost and wide availability. This means bank accounts are unlikely to get drained and people using the drugs don’t often need to sneak off in the middle of the night. Fortunately, there are still a few red flags that point towards whippet addiction. 

If you notice any of these signs, you should talk to your loved one directly:

  • Cracked whip cream cans in the trash or around the home. 
  • Deflated balloons with a strange smell inside home.
  • Impaired motor function for short periods of time.  
  • Possession of tiny metal cylinders. 
  • Repeated injuries which can occur due to lightheadedness. 
  • Sores on lips from frostbite linked to direct inhaling from containers. 
  • Possession of small metal tools known as “gas crackers.”

It’s possible that whippet addiction could lead to issues seen with other substance abuse disorders. These could include becoming socially distant, spending large amounts of time using the drug, or having financial issues in order to acquire their next “hit.” In many instances, though, you’ll only know there’s a problem after finding remnants of whippet containers. 

Speaking to your loved one about abusing whippets can be difficult – especially if they view it as a safe alternative to other drugs. Take a look at our Family Member Support Guide for tips on how to approach the subject without putting your friend or family member on the defensive. 

Whippet Addiction Statistics

Whippets rarely receive the same level of attention granted to alcoholism, prescription drug use, or opioid abuse. This has resulted in a serious lack of statistical information regarding addiction to nitrous oxide. Even when looking at the minimal data that are available, though, it’s apparent that whippets are a growing problem.

  • Nearly 30 percent of Americans will abuse nitrous oxide at some point. 
  • Only 1 percent of whippet users report physical injury, but more ‘hits’ increases the chance of harm. 
  • Nearly one-third of individuals inhaling nitrous oxide report having hallucinations. 
  • Between 2015 and 2016, deaths related to whippets doubled in the U.K. 
  • 10 percent of teenagers will try whippets or other inhalants. 
  • Between 2017 and 2018, whippet use increased more than 35 percent among those 12-17 years old. 
  • Less than 30 percent of people abusing nitrous oxide knew of potential health risks. 

These statistics highlight a population that’s increasingly facing whippet addiction without recognizing the serious health risks that accompany it. Abuse of nitrous oxide should be taken as seriously as other addictions – because the outcomes can be just as disastrous. Contact us at Transformations Treatment Center today to get started on the road to recovery. 

Whippet Addiction Treatment

Since addiction to whippets doesn’t create physical dependence, there’s no need for a medical detoxification program. This is typically the first step in overcoming substance abuse, but when someone is misusing nitrous oxide, treatment focuses on overcoming psychological dependence. This typically involves identifying an underlying cause for the addiction. 

Common co-occurring disorders could include anything from mental health problems to opioid abuse. One of these disorders might be the precipitating factor in whippet addiction, or it could just be another substance abuse disorder. Whatever the specific situation, therapy is necessary to identify and create a treatment plan to overcome these issues. 

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan when attempting to overcome whippet abuse. Therapy could take place in a personal, group or family setting depending on the specific needs of the individual. Only after the underlying causes and co-occurring disorders have been identified can true recovery begin. 

Whippet Addiction Recovery

Overcoming whippet abuse isn’t a “one-and-done” process. Treatment will help a person address the behaviors, thoughts, routines and other disorders that contributed to their addiction, but recovery continues long after these issues have been identified. Like initial treatment, recovery plans will vary since they should always focus on the needs of the individual.

At Transformations Treatment Center, we focus on providing a holistic approach to recovery. This means your personalized plan will focus on mind, body and spirit. It’s also helpful to include family members in recovery plans when appropriate, and this is something that’s far too often overlooked. Our additional offerings maintain focus on achieving holistic recovery:

  • Group therapy. 
  • Serenity Lounge. 
  • Mental health services. 
  • Experiential services (e.g. recreation, adventure therapy). 
  • Outpatient (OP) and intensive outpatient (IOP) programs.

This is just a small sampling of the tools available to those trying to overcome whippet addiction. Patients who are dealing with other substance abuse disorders can also take advantage of partial hospitalization (PHP) and medically supervised detox services. This can help to better handle withdrawal and Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

The biggest problem with recovery is the potential for relapse, and this is especially the case with whippets. Their affordability, ease of access, and typically minor short-term side effects make “just one more time” an appealing thought. This is why our aftercare program maintains long-term contact with all patients to ensure the best chance at recovery. 

Don’t Face Whippet Addiction Alone

If you or a loved one has started abusing nitrous oxide, you understand that it’s much more than just a “party drug.” While the “high” experienced from abusing this substance is fleeting, the potential for overdose and serious long-term health problems will last much longer than the short-lived euphoria.

At Transformations Treatment Center, we recognize just how serious whippet addiction can be. That’s why our certified staff of professionals are ready to help you build a treatment and recovery plan that works for you – all while making our first-rate facilities available. Contact us today so we can help you get on the road to recovery. 


Journal of Psychopharmacology

New York Post

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Frontiers in Psychology

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Response and Updates for Clients, Families, and Referents Read More