Is My Teen Abusing Whippits and Balloons?

Is My Teen Abusing Whippits and Balloons?

Authored by Pin Ng PhD

Edited by Philippa Gold

Reviewed by Michael Por, MD

What You Need to Know about Whippits Abuse

The Use of Nitrous Oxide or “Whippits” Amongst Teens

As teens are growing up, they tend to try new hobbies and activities and make new friends. Many of these hobbies and friends may be kept secret, as many teens prefer to do. Most of those hobbies and activities could be completely harmless and your teen just prefers privacy. But — as children get older they are exposed to more activities that are naturally less innocent and safe.

There are numerous substances that have become popular with teens over the years. Teens are not void of the drugs we regularly hear about as adults, but because of age and lack of resources, many teens that choose to partake find their way around a lack of resources. Substances that teens use as drugs or to “get high” become popular amongst the age group because they can often be easily purchased in any store or shop. And they are inexpensive and legal is most areas. Whippets or Whippits are one of those easily accessible substances.

What are Whippits?

Whippets are methods of inhaling nitrous oxide. Nitrous Oxide has been around since the 19th century and was regularly used as a way to experience euphoria. It relieves physical discomfort and impedes your perception of what is going on around you1 When it was discovered that it had that effect on your physical perception and feeling, hospitals and medical professionals began using it to alleviate pain during procedures. It is commonly used in dentist offices to this day. It is what is often referred to as “laughing gas” in hospitals, clinics, and dentist offices around the world.

Whippits: nitrous oxide through aerosol whip cream cans

The name Whippit comes from the use of nitrous oxide through aerosol whip cream cans. The gas needs to be in close contact with your nose and mouth, so the cans are cut or sliced open to access the gas. The user will often put a bag over their head with the can inside to assist with the close contact inhaling. Some users may blow up balloons, stick the can inside with their head and use that to inhale as much of the gas as possible.

What does using a Whippit (or Whippet) feel like?

A whippit high feels like:

  • brief, mild rush of energy
  • feelings of happiness
  • abstract thinking
  • loss of inhibitions
  • euphoria


When you are high from this sort of gas or inhalant, your muscle control is impaired and you lack the judgment skills you need to function normally. This lack of judgment and muscle control is extremely dangerous as many users do not die from the direct effects of the gas, but of the physical damage they cause to their bodies because of this lack of judgment. Many people have died in road traffic incidents while being high on whippits.

This is all not to mention the direct effects the gas has on the body and mind. Users can suffer through seizures, suffocation, and heart failure. Some individuals may end up in a coma or completely unconscious. Continued use of the gas shows serious problems as well. Users can become easily addicted and the gas can cause severe withdrawals if use is abruptly stopped.

What do Whippits Look Like?

Whippits can be bought in most food stores

Whippits can be bought in most professional food stores

What are the withdrawal effects of whippets?

Withdrawal effects of whippits can include:

  • seizures
  • hallucinations
  • insomnia
  • nausea
  • pounding heart
  • sweating


How Does Nitrous Oxide Work and How Does it Affect My Teen?

This gas and other similar inhalants decrease the supply of oxygen that is readily available to your brain and the rest of your body. This is how the “high” effect works. It is caused and depends on a decreased flow of oxygen. You do not get the high if you are receiving an adequate amount of oxygen to your brain. The atoms in the nitrous oxide gas bind to the oxygen atoms in your blood. This covers up and negates any of the use of those oxygen atoms. This binding to oxygen atoms can cause a permanently decreased production and permanently impacted bility for these atoms to be properly utilized all throughout the body.

This lack of oxygen is particularly dangerous for teens. Our brains are still developing until our mid-twenties. If there is prolonged use of Whippits as a teen, that individual is facing potentially permanent and severe effects on their brain and ability to function.

Effects of continued Whippit use include:

  • permanent issues with hypoxia and anoxia. These conditions are a reduced flow of oxygen to the other organs in the body, your brain, or a total halt of oxygen in your body overall. If oxygen is not flowing to your body and brain, you cannot function and will develop permanent brain and organ damage.
  • Nitrous Oxide affects your ability to properly utilize vitamin B12. A lack of properly synthesized B12 can cause bone marrow production issues and eventually cause other severe neurological issues.


If you have noticed a shift in your teen you may come across any of these scenarios if they are using whippits:


  • frequent disorientation
  • chilly feeling in face or throat
  • sore throat
  • change in sleeping habits
  • breath odor
  • facial rash
  • cracked aerosol cans in the bedroom
  • deflated balloons with strange odors


If you come across any of these scenarios or changes in behavior, you should probably take some action immediately and chat to your teen. While it can be argued that more people die of alcohol use disorder than nitrous oxide there is not a specific single amount of nitrous oxide that leads to an overdose, but continued use and even a single unfortunate use of the gas can sometimes be fatal. Just like most drugs that raise your heart rate and constrict blood vessels ,users can have heart failure and seizures from multiple uses, but in some cases, these scenarios can occur with one use. Everyone is different.

Whippits can be addictive, depending on the individual and it will be more difficult to stop the longer it is used. There can also be severe withdrawal symptoms as well. With continued use, your teen’s brain and neurological development could be permanently impacted.

There is help available for your teen. It will not be easy, but your teen needs professional help when it comes to stopping the regular use of this inhalant. This confrontation may cause friction in your relationship at first, but you, and eventually they, will know you are doing this out of love and for the security of their future.

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References & Citations: Whippits, Whippets, Laughing Gas, Nitrous Oxide

  1. Jastak JT. Nitrous oxide in dental practice. Int Anesthesiol Clin. 1989;27:92–97. ][]
  2. Harding TA, Gibson JA. The use of inhaled nitrous oxide for flexible sigmoidoscopy: a placebo-controlled trial. Endoscopy. 2000;32:457–460. []
  3. Annequin D, Hamon R. Utilisation du Protoxyde d’Azote Pour les Actes Douloureux en Pédiatrie. Paris: SPARADRAP; 1995. []
  4. Branda EM, Ramza JT, Cahill FJ, Tseng LF, Quock RM. Role of brain dynorphin in nitrous oxide antinociception in mice. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2000;65:217–221. [PubMed] []
  5. Tseng LF, Collins KA. Spinal involvement of both dynorphin A and Met-enkephalin in the antinociception induced by intracerebroventricularly administered bremazocine but not morphine in the mouse. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1993;266:1430–1438. [PubMed] []
  6. Lee CGL, Gregg AR, O’Brien WE. Localization of the neuronal form of nitric oxide synthase to mouse chromosome aka whippits. Mamm Genome. 1995;6:56–57. [PubMed] []
  7. Fender C, Fujinaga M, Maze M. Strain differences in antinociceptive effect of nitrous oxide on tail flick test in rats. Anesth Analg. 2000;90:195–199. [PubMed] []
  8. Houpt M. Project USAP 2000—use of sedative agents by pediatric dentists: a 15-year follow-up survey. Pediatr Dent. 2002;24:289–294. []
  9. Caton PW, Tousman SA, Quock RM. Involvement of nitric oxide in nitrous oxide anxiolysis in the elevated plus-maze. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1994;48:689–692. [PubMed] []
  10. Jevtovic-Todorovic V, Todorovic SM, Mennerick S, Powell S, Dikranian K, Benshoff N, Zorumski CF, Olney JW. Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is an NMDA antagonist, neuroprotectant and neurotoxin. Nature Med. 1998;4:460–463. [PubMed] []

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Whippits - Balloons - Nitrous Oxide - Whippets
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Whippits - Balloons - Nitrous Oxide - Whippets
The name Whippits comes from the use of nitrous oxide through aerosol whip cream cans. The gas needs to be in close contact with your nose and mouth, so the cans are cut or sliced open to access the gas. The user will often put a bag over their head with the can inside to assist with the close contact inhaling. Some users may blow up balloons, stick the can inside with their head and use that to inhale as much of the gas as possible.
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