Warning signs of whippet use

Whippet use (also called Nos or whip its) is often hard to spot as the high is short-lived and the items used to intake it can be found in any home. Here we look at some telltale signs of whippet use and what to be on the lookout for.

How are whippets used?

The small, silver whippet canister or cartridges for cream dispensers (that contain nitrous oxide) are opened or “cracked” with a whippet cracker and the contents are filled into a balloon, which is then huffed continuously until a mildly hallucinogenic and euphoric reaction occurs.[1] 

The high felt from whippets is usually short-lived, in most cases not lasting longer than a minute, which leads many users to abuse the drug in high amounts over a short period of time.

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What do whippets look like?

Whippets are small, cylindrical silver canisters that are approximately 4 inches in length.

Silver whippet canisters

The bottom side of the whippet canister is smooth and rounded, with the top edge tapering into a flat edge where the canister is pierced to release the nitrous oxide inside. The gas inside has no colour.

What do whippets smell/taste like?

The nitrous oxide in whippets is completely odourless and tasteless. Even when the gas is transferred to a balloon and inhaled repeatedly, there is no discernible taste or smell.

What are whippet crackers?

Whippet crackers, also known as whipped cream dispensers or foam makers, are often kitchen-grade pieces of equipment that have a large cylinder on the bottom, a nozzle on top and a handle or trigger on the side. The base is intended to hold the ingredients that are to be infused with nitrous oxide, which in turn gives them a bubbly, foamy texture. 

The whippet canister is screwed into the device by removing the nozzle and top compartment. When abusing whippets, users will place a balloon over the nozzle and decompress the nitrous oxide directly into the balloon so it can be inhaled. 

In recent years, smaller, more subtle whippet crackers have been developed explicitly to abuse whippets. These small cylinders resemble flashlights (see above) and are easy to conceal. Cheaper versions of whippet crackers can lead to the gas being released through seals around the edge of the device, which can cause chill burns when coming into contact with exposed skin.

How long does a whippet high last?

When inhaled via a balloon the high from nitrous oxide is short-lived, lasting as little as 30-40 seconds. This leads to many users taking more of the drug continuously in order to maintain the euphoric effects felt by the drug. Abusing whippets over a long period of time or heavily in one sitting can lead to serious health conditions such as:

  • Kidney damage
  • Heart failure
  • limb spasms
  • Sudden sniffing death

Click here to read more about the dangers of whippet abuse.

Do whippets show up in drug tests?

No, the nitrous oxide in whippets does not show up in standard drug tests. This is due to the gas having an extremely short half-life and rapid bodily elimination.[2] In order for doctors to accurately diagnose issues relating to inhalant abuse, it is vital patients give an accurate description of any and all whippet abuse in their recent past.

Read here to learn more about how long drugs and alcohol stay in your system.

How can I spot whippet use?

As the high felt from whippet drug use is short-lived, it can be difficult if someone has been using them. However, there are some indicators that someone has been abusing whippets:

  1. Whippet paraphernalia - small silver canisters, small metal tubes known as “crackers”, kitchen-grade whipped cream dispensers, empty balloons

  2. Loss of appetite
  3. Poly-drug use - whippet users will often take other drugs or alcohol to increase the intoxication and effects of one another

  4. Chronic headaches - constant whippet abuse results in the brain becoming starved of oxygen, which can lead to headaches and eventually brain damage

  5. Changes in social circles - whippets tend to be done communally with other people and at parties, especially among young adults and teens.

  6. Changes in behavior - whippet abuse can lead to users becoming more detached, displaying mood swings, lethargy, and anxiety

Getting help for whippet abuse

While considered generally nonaddictive, abusing inhalants like whippits will often lead to other drug use and can cause serious medical conditions. 

If you or someone you care about is abusing whippets, treatment is available. While full rehab in an inpatient facility may not be necessary for those who only use whippets occasionally, speaking to an addiction specialist or counsellor can help manage cravings and prevent harder substance use. Visit our addiction services directory to find help in your area today.