Whippets: the alternative high
A drug available legally to anyone, Whippets figure into 100 deaths a year from abuse of inhalants.
Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
"I was confused to what the big deal was because I thought of it like helium from a balloon, but I realized it was a lot different than that when a buddy of mine went unconscious," University of Arkansas junior Taylor Vann said, as he remembered the first time he saw whippets being used at a party in high school.
A whippet, or "whip-it," is a small canister that contains a gas called nitrous oxide. It gets the name whippet from its commonly used source of a whip cream can. The gas is capped off into a device that is placed within the can, and when it is pressurized, the gas shoots through the fat-soluble content and releases the cream through the top.
Medically speaking, nitrous oxide is nothing different from the laughing gas patients receive at the dentist's office to help them relax when undergoing dental or minor surgeries.
"I've been seeing whippets done on campus for quite a while. I didn't know what they were before I got to college, but I feel like it's a standard thing to see happening on your typical Thursday or Friday night," SMU sophomore Demi Stanley said.
The inhalant has been on the streets for a long time but has become more popular in the past 10 years. Celebrities such as "Jackass" star Steve-O and, more recently, Demi Moore have suffered addictions to the drug and have been subsequently hospitalized.
A lethal drug, available legally to anyone, whippets figure into 100 deaths each year from abuse of inhalants.
In an online survey of Southern Methodist University students, 49 responded to questions about the drug: 8.2 percent said they knew of someone who had died from using the drug, 30.6 percent responded to knowing what whippets are and how they are used, 10.2 percent said they had used whippets before and 12.2 percent said they knew of someone who uses whippets on a regular basis.
"It is something you get from the dentist, and kids are getting it from whip cream cans," SMU pharmacist Kathy Johnson said. "Whippets should never be used recreationally. They mess with your central nervous system, and that's not something you play with because it can cause serious depression and even death."
People use the drug is to get high. It cuts off oxygen to the brain and creates an instantaneous euphoric high characterized by laughter, giddiness, dizziness and a lack of coordination, which lasts about 30 seconds before coming back down. Whippets can also create confusion and disorientation.
Los Angeles attorney Veronica De Alba spoke in 2009 about whippets at a Sacramento news conference. She said even students who are driven and focused on school work are using whippets on a regular basis because "they think of it as an alternative and safe way to get high rather than using other hardcore drugs."
KCRA News in Sacramento, Calif. reported that in a random study of eighth graders, over 50 percent of them said they had tried or been exposed to whippets.
Experts at the Poison Control Center of Dallas say that one cause for this sort of outbreak has much to do with many websites and online articles that state using nitrous oxide has no real "long-term" effects. Kids are using them thinking that the drugs will not cause any harm, but sites along with doctors also state that when used often, too much oxygen is cut off and people won't wake up.