Inhalants like nitrous oxide have always been popular with adolescents, especially those between the ages of 14 to 15 and they are abused more frequently by males than females. However, medical professionals have seen an increase in whippet usage since the pandemic which has hit some places like Detroit hard where authorities found 25,000 steel cartridges in streets and parking lots and in Great Britain where nitrous oxide was banned for recreational use in 2016.
Dr. David Nicholl, consultant neurologist and clinical lead at City Hospital in Birmingham says that young people are consuming nitrous oxide at a much higher rate than before the pandemic “I’ve been a neurologist for 21 years and have seen a definite change in how it’s being used, since the pandemic,” says Nicholl. “Compared to before, now the volumes of nitrous oxide being consumed can be quite terrifying – up to 150 cylinders per day. It’s perceived as safe – and terms like ‘laughing gas’ are especially unhelpful because it makes it sound trivial. But the stuff bought on the street is pure nitrous oxide and not safe for human consumption.” He adds that he sees more of his patients struggling with the side effects of whippets than cocaine abuse.