What are Whippets? Understanding the Side Effects and Risks

what are whippets

Whippets are inhalants popular among teenagers. Whippets can give users a quick high and are readily available in several easily accessible household products. While the availability and popularity of whippets may give people the impression that they are safe, this could not be further from the truth. Using whippets can have short and long-term consequences and can lead to severe harm.

This article will explore what whippets are, their effects and risks, and how to seek treatment for substance abuse. Reach out to the PAX Memphis team now to learn about our comprehensive substance abuse programs or to find support at any stage of your recovery.

What are Whippets?

Nitrous oxide is a gas commonly used during surgeries and medical procedures that require sedation. Many dental offices offer nitrous oxide as a way for patients to relax during cleanings and other procedures. When used in a medical setting, nitrous oxide provides gentle sedation and relaxation, allowing people to stay more comfortable during procedures that may cause stress or pain.

Some people abuse nitrous oxide by using it outside a medical setting. Nitrous oxide is available in some household products, and people may use it to get high.

The name “whippets” comes from whipped cream canisters filled with nitrous oxide, which acts as a propellant to move whipped cream out of the can. People who use whippets inhale the nitrous oxide from whipped cream canisters.

However, whippets can also be a slang term for any manner of ingesting nitrous oxide. For example, some people may feel a balloon with nitrous oxide and inhale it or fill a bag with the gas and put it over their head.

Nitrous oxide can produce a quick High that includes a tingling sensation, dizziness, and relaxation. Some people may lose coordination or slow their speech, especially if they use a higher dose of nitrous oxide.

Some states have made it illegal to sell nitrous oxide to people under the age of 21 in an effort to reduce whippet abuse. However, the widespread availability of whipped cream cans and other household products that contain nitrous oxide makes this a complex problem to curb.

The Dangers of Whippets

When people receive nitrous oxide in a medical setting, they also receive oxygen simultaneously to reduce unwanted side effects from the gas and long-term problems. But people who use whippets generally do not take any precautions that would keep them safe. Users get pure, unadulterated nitrous oxide, which can be dangerous– especially with ongoing or heavy use.

The effects of nitrous oxide abuse are similar to those of other inhalants such as paint thinner and glue. Inhaling any chemicals can put your body at risk of short and long-term harm.

Short-term effects

Nitrous oxide abuse can impair your judgment and coordination, putting you at risk for injuries and accidents. Some people may also experience paranoia or hallucinations, which puts you and others at risk of erratic behaviors that may lead to injuries.

Whippet use may also cause:

  •  Fainting
  •  Dizziness
  •  Irregular heart rhythm
  •  Nausea
  •  Emotional dysregulation
  •  Headaches

Heavy or repeated use of whippets can cause long-term damage and may be psychologically addictive.

Long-term effects

Some people may consider whippet use to be a harmless way to get high. However, repeated exposure to nitrous oxide can profoundly affect your health and well-being.

Muscle loss

Prolonged whippet abuse can prevent your body from processing vitamin B12, which is essential to many bodily functions. People with vitamin B12 deficiency often experience severe, sometimes debilitating muscle atrophy that causes severe weakness. Some may require hospitalization, and some people never regain strength or muscle function.

Organ damage

Whippet abuse reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood. Over time, your organs may experience damage from low oxygen saturation. Your kidneys and liver may suffer irreversible damage.

Whippet abuse can severely damage your immediate and long-term health and well-being.

If you or someone you love uses whippets, it is important to stop immediately and seek professional treatment.

Preventing Whippet Abuse

Whippets and other inhalant drugs are often easy to buy and use. Many household products containing nitrous oxide propellants do not have age restrictions, making them an easy target for teens looking to get high.

Inhalant abuse is popular among teenagers and young adults.  Parents need to be aware of the risk of whippet abuse, recognize the signs, and seek treatment as quickly as possible.

One of the critical aspects of recognizing inhalant abuse is knowing what to look for. Whippets can come in many forms, including whipped cream canisters. But nitrous oxide can also come in a kitchen-grade canister Intended for making whipped cream or foams.  The canister will have a nozzle on top and a handle or trigger on the side.

If you hear a friend or loved one talking about whippet use or you find whippet canisters, reach out for help immediately. Whippet abuse is serious and can require professional intervention.

Find Help for Whippet Abuse Now

If you or someone you love uses whippets or you want to learn more about this dangerous practice, reach out to the PAX Memphis team now for support. Our substance abuse experts can help you recognize whippet abuse and help you take the next steps to get help.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.