Whippets have been used for years by clubgoers and are widely, though illegally, available at music festivals. However, research suggests increasing whippet use among young people, teens, and students.

Whippet use and young people

As whippet canisters are easy to obtain and legal, they have become one of the most abused substances in the world. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported whippets as being the most popular recreational inhalant drug. They estimate that more than 12 million users in the US have tried whip-its at least once.

A popular misconception that has led to the popularity of whippets is that they are safe to use when compared to toxic inhalants like commercial and household products such as gasoline, paint thinner, or aerosols.

This idea is in fact false and abusing whippets can be extremely dangerous and potentially fatal. One of the largest demographics to use whippets, and those who are most at risk of their effects, are teenagers under 18.[1]

Related: The dangers of whippet abuse

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Whippet abuse statistics

While precise data on whippet abuse is thin, there are reports that show inhalant abuse among teens and young adults is prevalent. This data has been compiled by SAMHSA and shows the reported inhalant use in the US in 2015. 

  • About 684,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 used inhalants in the past year.

  • Adolescents were more likely than adults aged 18 or older to have used inhalants in the past year to get high (2.7 vs. 0.4%).

  • Female adolescents were more likely than male adolescents to have used inhalants in the past month (3.2 vs. 2.3%).

  • More than half of adolescents who used inhalants in the past year (59%) had used 1 to 11 days in the past year; about 1 in 5 (19.3%) had used 12 to 49 days.

Related: How to spot whippet abuse

Whippet use among students

A 2018 UK study performed by the University of Kingston looked into the rate of use of nitrous oxide (referred to in the study as “hippy crack” but including whippet use) among 18-25 year olds. The criteria of the study were set out to measure consumption patterns, knowledge, risk awareness and intentions toward future abuse.

Of the 140 participants surveyed (94 females, 40 males, 6 nondeclared) 39 participants reported previous experience with whippets, with only 7 (5%) reporting use on 10 or more occasions. Of these users, 46.2% only took 2-3 hits of whippets in a single session and the majority exceeded 3, with some exceeding 20 intakes in a single session. 

97.43% reported only using whippets in social settings or with friends and the majority confirmed the ease of acquiring the drug. Many of the past users also reported that they would use whippets again in the next 3 months, with those over the age of 20 being more likely to reuse. 

These findings show that while only 27.8% of participants had tried whippets in the past, those that had were more likely to retake the substance again. While this statistic alone does not directly indicate dependence or addiction to whippets, it does suggest that those who have taken the drug once are more likely to do so again, putting themselves at greater risk of future health problems.