Effects of Inhalants

Inhalant abuse doesn’t just provide a quick high. Abusing inhalants can have serious adverse effects. Inhalants are substances people inhale through their nose to achieve a mind-altering state. They come in the form of aerosols, gases, nitrates and solvents. Some inhalants have legitimate uses in medical and dental procedures. Others are found in cleaning or industrial products. One of the most well-known inhalants is whippets. This drug is also known as whip its, whippits or laughing gas. Whippets are nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is safe in medical settings. Dentists and physicians use nitrous oxide to help patients feel comfortable during some procedures. The chemical is also found in whipped cream dispensers. This is where the drug gets its name. People use the term “whippets” when they’re using nitrous oxide as a recreational drug. Whippets side effects can be uncomfortable, dangerous and even deadly. Whippets and other inhalants work by temporarily depriving your brain of oxygen. This can make you feel like you’re floating. It can also make you feel giddy and relaxed. Inhalant and whippets side effects can cause a head rush and make you dizzy. Some people misuse whippits to get high. If you’re struggling with whippit abuse or other inhalant abuse, you should know about the effects of nitrous oxide and other inhalants.

Effects of Whippets and Other Inhalants

The National Institute on Drug Abuse warns people about several side effects of inhalants. Some of these are short term, but inhalant abuse can have long-term effects as well.


Inhalants like nitrous oxide can make you clumsy. Depriving your brain of oxygen can cause lightheadedness and confusion. You may temporarily lose a good portion of your motor control. Falling and breaking a bone or hitting your head are real risks of inhalant abuse.


Inhalants work on the central nervous system and slow down the brain. Disrupting the brain’s electrical charges is a possible effect of inhalants. These disruptions can lead to seizures or convulsions.

Organ Damage

Inhalants make it hard for your lungs to get enough oxygen. Inhalants replace oxygen with the chemicals in the drug. This prevents the lungs from absorbing oxygen properly. Gases in the inhalants may also cause damage to the lungs. Lack of oxygen also impacts the liver. All organs need proper oxygen flow to function correctly. Some people who abuse inhalants have liver damage. Certain chemicals in inhalants can interfere with kidney processes and contribute to kidney stones or kidney damage.

Nerve Damage

Nitrous oxide can deplete the body of vitamin B12. This vitamin is important for keeping nerve and blood cells healthy. A vitamin B12 deficiency puts you at risk for peripheral neuropathy. This nerve condition causes symptoms like limb numbness and pain.


Effects of nitrous oxide may include nausea and vomiting. This can be very dangerous. If you pass out while using whippets or other inhalants, you’re at risk for choking on vomit. Sometimes people cover their faces when they do whippets or other inhalants to increase the amount they breathe in. Doing this ups your risk of choking on your vomit even more. Hearing Problems Abusing inhalants can lead to hearing problems. Using a mask or other face contraption to get more of the drug puts pressure on the middle ear. This can damage the ear and lead to hearing problems. Spinal Cord Damage In severe cases, whippet abuse can contribute to spinal cord damage. This is also related to the way nitrous oxide can drain you of vitamin B12. Left untreated, this can cause degeneration of the spinal cord. This condition may include symptoms like:

  • Weakness
  • Numbness and tingling in feet and hands
  • Stiff limbs
  • Clumsiness
  • Poor reflexes
  • Moodiness and extreme emotions
  • Agitation
  • Feeling tired and groggy
  • Difficulty walking

Overdose and Death

Inhalants are toxic. Misusing whippets and other inhalants can cause overdose or death. Inhalant abuse symptoms like seizures can be deadly. Some inhalants have very high amounts of dangerous chemicals. For example, aerosol sprays and solvents have a high concentration of toxic chemicals. They can cause irregular heart rates leading to seizures or heart failure. This is known as sudden sniffing death. It can happen to a healthy person using the drug for the first time. The method of using inhalants can also lead to death. Some people put a plastic bag over their head or a mask to get a more intense high. You can suffocate if you pass out while your airway is obstructed.

Withdrawal Symptoms

There are instances of people experiencing withdrawal symptoms from inhalants. Withdrawal symptoms from inhalants may include:

  • Moodiness
  • Sleep issues
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating


Addiction to inhalants is uncommon but not impossible. You can become psychologically addicted to the effects of inhalant abuse. Continuing to abuse drugs even though they’re damaging your health and compromising work and relationships is a sign of addiction. Trying to stop using whippets without success is also a sign of addiction.

Treating Inhalant Abuse

Vitamin B12 deficiency accounts for a lot of the damaging effects of whippets. Treatment for inhalant abuse usually includes vitamin B12 supplements. This can help repair damage to the central nervous system. Research on the most effective inhalant abuse treatments is in its infancy. According to NIDA, some inhalant abusers find cognitive behavioral therapy is helpful. Contingency management is also a promising treatment. This approach gives you incentives for not using drugs and following your treatment plan. Treatment should also address the reasons you abuse whippets, especially if you’re also abusing other substances. For example, addiction treatment addresses mental health disorders. Some research finds many people with severe inhalant addictions also have psychiatric issues. Inhalant and whippit abuse may be your way of coping with mental health symptoms. When you have drug addiction and a mental illness, it’s known as co-occurring disorders. Other underlying issues of drug abuse may include emotional pain and low self-esteem. Substance abuse treatment helps you work through these challenges. Addiction treatment teaches you how to live a healthy, rewarding life without substance abuse.

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