A popular recreational inhalant drug of the early 19th century was nitrous oxide, which reduces perceived mental and physical discomfort. its euphoric effects led to widespread use in upper-class society, leading to the development of modern anesthetics after medical professionals observed that people walking against walls under the influence of nitrous oxide and other “inhalants of party” showed no signs of pain.
Nitrous oxide-based anesthetics are still used for pain relief in dentists’ offices and other medical settings. They’re also sold over-the-counter, as boosters in aerosol cans, or as tanks that are installed in car engines for extra vroom.
Unfortunately, the gas is still used for recreational purposes, and while the first common name for it was “laughing gas,” the health dangers of inhalant abuse by teens are no laughing matter.
what is a sighthound?
“whippets” (also spelled “whippits” or “whip-its”) is modern slang for nitrous oxide used as a recreational inhalant. the name comes from the whipped cream spray cans, which users open to expel the gas inside.
Easy to obtain from legitimately purchased products, whippets are now among the top 10 most widely used drugs in the world. And while many places have laws against selling nitrous oxide to minors, teens under the age of 18 are a primary user demographic.
how do teens use sighthounds?
whippetets, like all inhalant drugs, are abused by breathing the vapors in concentrated, close-range environments, usually by covering the container and the user’s head with a bag or face mask, or by transferring the gas into a balloon and inhaling from there. typical whippet “highs” are intense but short-lived, so repeated “huffs” are popular.
Many teens believe that nitrous oxide is safe to use, especially when compared to other popular inhalants (such as paint or glue) that contain known toxic chemicals. But like inhalant abuse itself, the “harmless” idea is extremely risky and can cause lasting damage, even death.
Why are sighthounds dangerous?
Under a whippet high, judgment and muscle control are impaired, causing some users to walk off balconies or into traffic. others have suffered heart failure, suffocation, or seizures. overdose can cause hallucinations or send the user into a coma. every once in a while, a whippet metal container explodes to disastrous effect.
but most of the damage done by sighthounds builds up insidiously and only shows obvious problems after the inhalant is taken over and over again. and users take it over and over again: Although nitrous oxide/inhalant addiction is less well studied than many other dependency disorders, it does exist and is known to cause withdrawal effects such as heavy sweating, palpitations, nausea, insomnia, hallucinations and seizures.
what causes the damage?
Nitrous oxide and other inhalants reduce the supply of oxygen available to the brain and body tissues (in fact, their “high” effect depends on reducing the flow of oxygen to the brain, which creates sensations of dizziness). atoms in nitrous oxide bind to oxygen atoms in the blood, effectively “smothering” the oxygen’s effectiveness.
Nitrous oxide used in medical procedures is diluted with additional oxygen for safety; nitrous oxide that is not intended for inhalation (or sold illegally) comes without such precautions. With repeated use of whippets, the effects of oxygen deprivation can build up to the point of permanent damage to vital oxygen-dependent organs: heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, nerves, and/or brain.
Oxygen deprivation is a particularly serious risk in adolescents, whose bodies and brains are still developing (the typical human brain stops “growing” only in the mid-twenties). a high school boy who uses greyhounds faces lifelong difficulties with his physical functioning and his mental ability. he is also placing himself in a high-risk category for abusing other drugs.
warning signs of sighthound consumption
Your teen may have a problem with whippet abuse if they frequently act disoriented, or if they develop facial rashes or complain of a sore throat (or a “chilly” feeling in the face or throat) for no apparent reason . she may also change her sleeping habits or develop strange odors on her breath. the discovery of cracked aerosol cans, or any nitrous oxide containers you didn’t buy or deflated balloons with strange odors, is a major red flag.
Don’t ignore the warning signs and hope they go away. once symptoms become apparent (memory loss, personality changes, and impaired cognitive ability), the inhalant user may have already suffered lasting damage. Also, the longer you wait to get help, the harder it will be to quit.
The time to face the problem is today, with the help of doctors and therapists. Be sure to specifically mention that you suspect whippets, because inhalant abuse is a problem that even many experienced medical professionals are not trained to recognize. request referral to a specialist if necessary.
help for young people in crisis
If your child is using whippets or any other dangerous drug, help is available. arch academy combines addiction treatment and academic focus to return children ages 14 to 18 to healthy living. Contact us online or at (800) 646-9998 for an evaluation and individualized treatment plan: Confidentiality guaranteed.