Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nitrous oxide, a new addiction

Today the LA Times documents another new addictive substance making the rounds, nitrous oxide. Apparently kids can buy nitrous in little cannisters called "whippets" from any convenience store or even an ice cream truck for as little as 50 cents each. They then go get high between classes. Some have died from what they term sudden sniffing death syndrome. Nitrous is more popular among middle schoolers than marijuana or cocaine and is popular at teen parties. Sounds like the nitrous parties people used to have in the 19th century.

The article shows a picture of the products that contain nitrous that kids are sniffing, such as cans of WD 40 and Reddi Wip. I must be getting old but how the hell do you sniff WD 40 or Reddi Wip? Wouldn't you just get oil or whipped cream in your nose? As far as the whippets go, the article says it is used to make whipped cream. First of all, why would a convenience store sell nitrous for making whipped cream. Sounds like it should be sold in a specialty food or kitchen store. And after watching countless hours of the Food Channel, even I know that you don't need nitrous oxide to make whipped cream. All you need to do is beat whipping cream with a beater for about three minutes and voila! you have whipped cream. Where does the nitrous come in?

So now there is legislation in California to prohibit sale of nitrous to anyone under 18 and make it illegal to possess nitrous unless for use in medical procedures. Sounds reasonable except they can't ban the sale of air fresheners and oven cleaners, which is what teens are sniffing to get their high. This again points out the limitations of legislating lifestyle choices. The government can only do so much to change behavior. Ultimately it is up to the child, his parents, the community to set the proper example. As HRC said, it takes a village to raise a child. If the child is not properly supervised and morally confused no amount of legislation can change his behavior.


  1. “Sounds reasonable except they can't ban the sale of air fresheners and oven cleaners, which is what teens are sniffing to get their high.” So why banned N2O-O2 (food nitrous) when kids are killing themselves on air fresheners and oven cleaners? Today, we know that nitrous oxide (N2O) on its own can only safely be used for short periods of time because the lack of oxygen in pure N2O can lead to unconsciousness and even death. But last I knew the particular people who are able to model Pure 99.9% are Doctors! or more commonly Dentist! Surly common sense will tell you it's safe to use for longer periods of time if you mix it with oxygen. Hence, the "laughing gas" OR "whip-its" used now is called N2O-O2, and contains at least 25% oxygen. Usually, the mix is about 25% oxygen to 75% nitrous oxide, and this is called food nitrous or “whip-its.” If they took this off the market kids would search for other cheap highs that are way more dangerous! air fresheners and oven cleaners etc.. N2O-O2 is better than earths atmosphere holding at roughly (by volume) 78.08% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.038% carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of other gases or unknown gases! Air also contains a variable amount of water vapor, on average around 1%.

  2. Uhmm, I'm pretty sure nobody sells whip-its with a mixture of N2O and O2, and even the dentists have to have a second tank for the oxygen, and a regulator so they can change the mixing amount depending on the patient.

    Still I agree, nitrous is way, way safer than any of the other inhalants so it does seem dumb to take it off the market.

  3. Your questions show just how little you know about nitrous oxide. A cursory web search would be a good start to answer your questions. Maybe start here:

    or here