The Pulse

Nitrous Oxide


Unlikely mortality risk
Highly likely Mortality risk

Nitrous Oxide

Medical nitrous oxide is used for sedation and pain relief and is classified as a dissociative anesthetic. It is also used as a propellant for whipped cream and in the automotive industry to enhance engine performance. Sold as cartridges that can be discharged into another object such as a balloon or directly into the mouth and inhaled. They provide a brief, rapid euphoric high and feeling of floating or excitement. They also can cause sudden death do to profound hypoxia.

Learn more about Nitrous Oxide

Other names

Whippits, NOS, nangs, hippy crack, buzz bomb, balloons or laughing gas

Where do people get them?

It can be purchased on Amazon and restaurant supply stores.

How are they dangerous?

When used frequently or long term, they can cause memory loss, vitamin B12 deficiency (causing brain, spinal cord, and nerve damage), incontinence, depression, dependence, psychosis, as well as other side effects. When inhaling directly from tanks or whippets, it can cause frostbite to the nose, lips and throat, including the vocal cords. Because of the high pressure, it can also cause ruptures in the lung tissue when inhaled directly from the containers. The neurological symptoms can be severe, resembling Guillain-Barre Syndrome, affecting the ability to walk and causing profound weakness of the extremities. Abstinence and supplementation with injectable B12 is the only treatment for the neurological side effects and can sometimes take months to completely reverse the damage, sometimes the damage is not completely reversible.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, call Gallus at
(888) 306-3122.