Laughing Gas Is No Laughing Matter

Being a dog lover, I used to think a whippet was a Greyhound-type dog.  It is, but whippet also has another definition I learned after reading the article “Nitrous Nation,” by Ezra Marcus, N.Y. Times, 1-31-21, I discovered that a whippet is also a tank that discharges nitrous oxide, a colorless gas used for sedation and pain relief.

If you’ve ever been to an oral surgeon to have your wisdom teeth extracted, chances are you were offered a choice of a “dissociative anaesthetic,” or “laughing gas.” It can also be used in childbirth. But its misuse is on the rise as a party drug, especially this past year during the coronavirus pandemic.  The Medical Director of the Healthcare Professionals Program at Caron, a reputable rehab facility, Dr. Michael McCormick, has reported an uptick in patients abusing nitrous over the past year.

How Nitrous Oxide Works

When inhaled (“huffed”), nitrous oxide can produce a high that lasts 30 to 45 seconds.  It quickly reduces the blood’s level of oxygen.  It can be found in balloons, in party scenes such as raves and concerts. Even Reddi-Wip (yes, it’s spelled correctly) has nitrous oxide as a propellant to get the whipped cream out of the can!  Nitrous oxide dischargers (whippets) can be attached to Reddi-Whip. Mr. Tony Hsieh, 46, C.E.O. of the online shoe empire, Zappos, was recently found dead in a house fire in New London, Connecticut, surrounded by not only liquor bottles and marijuana paraphernalia, but several Whip-It brand nitrous oxide chargers and a “whipping cream dispenser.”

Nitrous oxide slows down your brain and your body’s responses and can make you feel as if you’re floating.  If a large amount of nitrous oxide is inhaled, it can produce loss of blood pressure, fainting, and heart attack. It can be incredibly dangerous and even fatal. In many states, it’s legal to own it, but illegal to inhale it.  Here are lists of both its short-term and long-term effects:

Nitrous Oxide’s Side Effects: Short-Term

  • euphoria
  • numbness of the body
  • sedation
  • giddiness
  • uncontrolled laughter
  • uncoordinated movements
  • blurred vision
  • confusion
  • dizziness and/or light-headness
  • sweating
  • feeling unusually tired or weak
  • sudden death

source:  ADF (Alcohol & Drug Foundation)

Long-Term Effects:

  • Memory loss
  • Vitamin B12 depletion
  • Ringing or buzzing in the ears
  • Incontinence
  • Numbness in hands or feet
  • Limb spasms
  • Birth defects
  • Weakened immune system
  • Disruption to reproductive system
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Psychological dependence

source:  ADF (Alcohol & Drug Foundation)

Unless your house is full of gluttons, if the Reddi-Wip is flying off your refrigerator shelf and you have a teenager, be suspicious of drug abuse!

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting. Currently, she is targeting her writing about recovery to parents whose children have substance abuse disorders.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Helene on February 4, 2021 at 9:46 am

    Important information, Wes. Thanks.

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