According to the web site Creamright, it’s a product that you can use to make whipped cream in your own home.
But a new report on ABC News is warning that these so-called “Whip-It” chargers, which are filled with nitrous oxide, are actually being used by people to get an artificial high – sometimes with dangerous results.
The report by ABC News, which aired Tuesday morning on “Good Morning America,” notes that these metal cylinders have become a popular recreational inhalant.
The Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration in Maryland has even issued a report on the use of “Whip-It” inhalants, noting that “nitrous oxide is used as a propellant for whipped cream and is available in 2-inch tapered cylinders called ‘whippits’ that are used to pressurize home whipped-cream charging bottles.”
But not that many people appear to be using it to cook with, the agency reports.
Teens often spray the nitrous oxide into a balloon, then inhale it, getting a temporary high.
As ABC News noted on its Web site, “Inhaling the compressed gas, either from the Whip-It chargers, a whipped cream canister, or a nitrous tank, is purported to result in a fleeting high, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes.”
In a report issued on March 16, 2006, titled “Trends in Adolescent Inhalant Use: 2002 to 2007,” SAMHSA noted that while the use of Whip-It highs for teens of both genders declined between 2002 and 2007, the overall rate for first time users was still disturbingly high.
“These findings highlight the ongoing need for prevention and treatment of inhalant use and abuse,” the report noted. “Continuing efforts are needed among adolescents and their parents, other family members, teachers, service providers, and policymakers to increase awareness of the dangers of inhalant use. Awareness campaigns and prevention efforts may need targeted messages about the use of specific inhalants.”
Nitrous oxide is also known as laughing gas and can be used as anesthesia in surgery and dental procedures. It got the tag name “laughing gas” because it can put the patient into a temporary euphoric state. Whip-its are small metal canisters, commonly used to recharge whipped cream cans in restaurants.
Although the product is marketed legally as being a supplement in “the preparation of food only,” ABC News noted in its report that using the product can be potentially deadly.
“Illinois college student Benjamin Collen, 19, died from asphyxiation from nitrous oxide,” ABC News noted. “He was found dead in a fraternity house surround by Whip-Its chargers in 2008.” ABC News also quoted representatives from the SAMHSA who warned that inhaling nitrous oxide can cut off the flow of oxygen to the brain.
ABC news looked into the risks of inhaled nitrous oxide after the web site TMZ.com reported in January that actress Demi Moore may have been using whip-its when she lapsed into semi-consciousness and landed in the hospital two months ago.
The Do It Now Foundation, which warns about the dangers of drug use, including inhalants, put together a pamphlet titled “Nitrous Oxide and Nitrite Inhalants: Just Say N2O,” in February 2011, and author Susan Merci wrote, “To some people, nitrite inhalants and nitrous oxide are a lot of laughs. That’s one reason the chemicals are popular among people looking for quick, cheap thrills.”
But nitrites, she added, are not harmless.
“According to the best available data, nitrous oxide and other inhalants figure into at least 100 deaths a year in the U.S. alone,” Merci wrote. “That’s why we put together this pamphlet. Because once you start digging, you realize that nitrites aren’t harmless, and some of the problems they cause aren’t that funny, either. And the deeper you dig, the more dirt you discover.”
Creamright.com markets the product as Purewhip Nitrous Oxide Whip Cream chargers, which sell for a box of 24 priced at $8.95, 10 boxes of $24 for $88.50, or a case of 600 for $198.99.
“Our original European N2O creme charger,” the site notes. “These are perhaps the highest value nitrous oxide gas cartridges available. All Purewhip chargers are EU (European Union)-certified for quality and purity, unlike many other ‘value’ brands. Each box of Original Purewhip contains 24 whipped cream chargers, each charger contains 8 grams of 100 percent pure nitrous oxide (N2O) gas. Enjoy fresh, delicious whipped cream anytime with the original Purewhip whipped cream charger.”
For home use, the site notes, “one to 10 boxes of cream cartridges is usually sufficient.”
In the past few years, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office has put a spotlight on a different drug that’s sold legally, usually in convenience stores where it’s marketed as a form of incense. But Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd has spent the past two years trying to clear from the store shelves products known as K2 and Spice, which he says are a synthetic form of marijuana. Buyers use it to get high, Judd said, even though synthetic pot has been known to cause a variety of illnesses, including severe nausea, headaches and vomiting.
In October 2010, Judd held a press conference to announce he was cracking down on convenience stores throughout Polk County that market the product. The Polk County State Attorney’s office had agreed to press charges under a Florida statute prohibiting “imitation controlled substances.” It targets the sellers, distributors and manufacturers of products that “by express or implied representations, purport to act like” an illegal substance. The charge is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, although the law doesn’t ban mere possession.
Last year, in response to reports from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Florida lawmakers voted to outlaw a long list of chemicals found in fake pot.
The Florida Poison Information Center has reported that between January and October, 374 overdoses, including two deaths, were linked to fake marijuana.
Scott Wilder, director of communications for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, said his office has not yet received any complaints about the so-called Whip-It products, or any reports of teens getting sick from using them.
He did ask detectives about these containers, and “Several of them have heard about it,” Wilder said. “They have not seen it in our stores. We haven’t seen it in our area. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It’s just something that hasn’t been prevalent. We haven’t gotten complaints about it.”
If products like K2 and Whip-It can be found in smoke shops, also known as head shops, in large cities like Orlando, Tampa and Miami, Wilder said Polk County is different.
“It might be something in the larger metropolitan areas, but we don’t have any head shops in Polk County,” he said. “We enforce those laws. We have a couple of smoke shops, but they don’t have any of the bongs or anything like that.”
He also said detectives have not received any warnings from state or federal anti-drug agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration about the risks of Whip-Its or any health problems associated with their use.
“We will get, from time to time, bulletins from the DEA or other local and state agencies if they’re noticing a trend, and our folks have not seen those notices lately,” Wilder said, adding that detectives say Whip-It containers are more likely to be purchased over the Internet than in local stores.
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