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Published:January 31st, 2012 13:59 EST

"Whippets" (Nitrous Oxide) and Abuse of Other Inhalants

By SOP newswire2

Inhalants such as nitrous oxide ("whippets" or "laughing gas") are gaseous substances with powerful mind-altering effects that resemble alcohol intoxication.

  • Inhalants create an instantaneous euphoric "high" characterized by laughter, giddiness, dizziness, and lack of coordination. They can also create confusion and disorientation.
  • Inhalants are often found in common household or commercial products that contain volatile solvents, aerosols, or gases including butane lighters and propane tanks, whipped cream aerosols or dispensers (whippets), and refrigerant gases
  • Inhalants also include certain medical anesthetics, such as ether, chloroform, halothane, and nitrous oxide ("laughing gas")
  • By displacing air in the lungs, inhalants such as nitrous oxide deprive the brain and other organs of oxygen, a condition known as hypoxia, which can cause fainting, loss of consciousness, or even death.
  • Sniffing highly concentrated amounts of the chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can directly induce heart failure and death within minutes following repeated inhalation a syndrome, known as "sudden sniffing death."
  • High concentrations of inhalants may also cause death from suffocation by displacing oxygen in the lungs, causing the user to lose consciousness and stop breathing. Deliberately inhaling from a paper or plastic bag or in a closed area greatly increases the chances of suffocation. Even when using aerosols or volatile products for their legitimate purposes (i.e., painting, cleaning), it is wise to do so in a well-ventilated room or outdoors.
  • Inhalant abuse is most common among adolescents and young adults.

  • Although inhalants do not produce physical addiction, habitual and even compulsive use patterns can develop with frequent use
  • Inhalant abuse is often associated with abuse of alcohol and other substance.


    Dr. Arnold M. Washton, an internationally-known addiction psychologist and author of numerous books on substance abuse and its treatment, is Executive Director of Recovery Options in New York City ( and The Washton Lukens Institute in Palm Beach, Florida ( email: