If you've had your wisdom teeth removed, you've probably received nitrous oxide gas. But have you ever taken it to party? You may know nitrous oxide by other names, like laughing gas, noz, or whippits. It is used legally as an anesthetic and relaxant in minor dental surgery. But nitrous can also be inhaled illegally, usually to experience a giddy, float-y sensation, and a release from pain. Outside of a doctor's office, nitrous oxide is most commonly found as a whipping agent in store-bought whipped cream dispensers. To obtain nitrous from the dispensers, users employ a "cracker," which is a tool made of heavy-duty brass or plumbing hardware. Users typically inflate a balloon or a plastic bag with nitrous oxide from a tank or a one-use 'charger', and then inhale the gas for its effects. Nitrous oxide expelled directly from a tank or canister is extremely cold, and there is danger of giving oneself frostbite of the nose, lips and vocal cords, when inhaled directly. For this reason, it's usually discharged into a thick-walled balloon or a mask before being inhaled. Immediately after taking nitrous, a user may fall down as his or her motor skills become impaired. A burst of happy stimulation will often be followed by disorientation, sleepiness, or nausea. The effects of whippits don't usually last more than a few minutes, which is why some people inhale several balloons over a short span of time. In the short term, nitrous may cause death by asphyxiation, particularly when inhaled through a mask. Whippits can also lead to immediate lung damage, or frostbite. With chronic use, nitrous oxide may also cause neuropathy, a condition in which nerve fibers are permanently damaged, resulting in weakness, tingling, and numbness. Despite these risks, nitrous is rarely addictive. If you chose to use nitrous oxide recreationally, recognize that you're breaking the law, and that if you are not careful, that you might hurt yourself.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012