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Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous Oxide
August 28, 2010 Kim Goldman

Nitrous Oxide (AKA: Whippets, Laughing Gas, Nitrous, Hippy Crack, N2O) is a gas that is commonly used as an anesthetic and is commonly found in dental offices. It is classified as an inhalant. It was first created in 1772 by Joseph Priestly, an English Scientist. N2O is used in whipped cream as both a foaming agent and a bacterial fighter.

What does it look like?Nitrous is most frequently used in the form of whipped cream chargers, small metal cartridges which are “cracked” either into a whipped cream canister or with a special cracker* into a balloon for inhalation..

It is also found in large metal tanks (often sold at clubs by the dose).

*A cracker is a device that is used to extract N2O from whippet cartridges. The device (often homemade) punctures the whippet and fills a balloon with N2O gas, which is then inhaled.

What are the effects?

  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty maintaining balance
  • Unconsciousness
  • Deficiency of vitamin B-12
  • Long term numbing sensations at nerve endings
  • Permanent loss of balance
  • Disorientation
  • Fixated vision
  • Throbbing or pulsating auditory hallucinations
  • Pulsating visual hallucinations
  • Increased pain threshold
  • Addiction
  • Death (Approximately 100 deaths each year are attributed to the illegal use of N2O)

Because the intoxication, or “high,” lasts only a few minutes, abusers often try to make the feeling last longer by inhaling repeatedly over several hours.

Yes, teens are using Nitrous Oxide.

Inhalants are often among the first drugs that young adolescents use. In fact, they are one of the few classes of substances that are abused more by younger adolescents than older ones.  Inhalant abuse can become chronic and continue into adulthood.

Data from national and state surveys suggest that inhalant abuse is most common among 7th- through 9th-graders. For example, in the Monitoring the Future Study, an annual NIDA-supported survey of the Nation’s secondary school students, 8th-graders regularly report the highest rate of current, past-year, and lifetime inhalant abuse compared to 10th- and 12th-graders. One of the problems is that, according to the 2009 survey, 42 percent of 8th-graders don’t consider the regular use of inhalants to be harmful, and 66 percent don’t think trying inhalants once or twice is risky. It means that young teens may not understand the risks of inhalant use as well as they should.

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