Say no to NO2, college’s newest party drug

Published On:
Friday, August 29, 2008
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For generations, college has been a place where newly freed young adults join together and find different ways to get wasted.

But after attending a party last Saturday night, I came across a way to get wasted at a party that just seemed flat-out ridiculous. At this party, along with the usual kegs and handles of cheap alcohol, there were nitrous oxide chargers and balloons, otherwise known as whip-its.”

Ladies and gentleman, screw hitting the bong or bottle — we should all just get high off nitrous oxide for a whopping three seconds ... and when we come down from that short high, we should do some more!

The majority of people at this party were inhaling balloons full of nitrous oxide. Then, they would prance around the dance floor, dance to the DJ and just generally they look like they had been taking acid for three days at Woodstock.

I observed these people for about two hours and I saw one particular girl take almost seven whip-its during that time — and that’s just the amount I actually witnessed her doing.

But before I make completely harsh judgments on how just ridiculous this way to get high seems to me, I wanted to do some research on it. What are the dangers? What are the effects? And what is the appeal?

According to a number of Web sites, including a certain community-created encyclopedia, the common uses of NO2 are in surgery, dentistry for anesthetic and analgesic effects and for recreational usage as inhalants.

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 could severely damage the user’s lungs if not used properly. Recreational users typically do not mix it with air or oxygen and ignore risk of injury or death from anoxia.

I couldn’t find any concrete information on the amount of brain cells whip-its kill, but it is pretty obvious that cutting off oxygen from your brain numerous times in a night would kill a lot of them.

Street terms for this drug, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, include: buzz bomb, laughing gas, shoot the breeze and whip-its.

Students I talked to who have used these inhalants the balloon way, such as the people at the party, say the major downfall they experience when inhaling the nitrous oxide is that it feels good, but seconds later it leaves you craving for more. The feeling is euphoric and you feel like you are living in an unreal world.

I can see the appeal of this, but if it only last for seconds, what is the point, people? At least the side effects last longer with other drugs that destroy your brain.

Is it because it is easily — and legally — obtained? The chargers are available at local smoke shops and some stores, the balloons you can get at the grocery store.

Students that are under 21 can get into a lot trouble for underage drinking, and getting caught doing most every other drug, such as marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy can get you a hefty penalty. Is it because you can get the supplies legally that it is perceived as OK in a party situation?

People who want to get high will get high; the stoners at parties retreat into a smoke room or the backyard to stand in a circle, the cokeheads stalk each other into the bathroom to take lines, and the meth-heads … Well, they just sit at home and think they are the coolest people alive. But the NO2 inhalers? Apparently they get to do their drug right there on the dance floor.

This is drug discrimination.

Though it’s all bad for you — with some worse than others, of course — perhaps these whip-its are a little worse than some people register it to be. That ought to change.

Krista can be reached by e-mail at