The 32-year-old man was partially paralyzed after rampant use of “whippets” caused severe nerve and spinal damage
- According to one report, a man suffered partial paralysis after using whippets extensively for a few weeks
- The man went to the emergency room after losing function in his legs and feeling tingling in his arms
- An MRI showed he had SCD, a spinal condition caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency – a symptom of nitrous oxide use
- Experts warn that the use of the devices among young people in America is increasing
A 32-year-old man was partially paralyzed after inhaling nitrous oxide using Whippet canisters for two months.
The unnamed man went to the emergency room six weeks after feeling tingling in his arms and two weeks after losing his legs. Doctors discovered that he suffered from subacute combined degeneration (SCD) — a condition in which a person’s spine begins to degenerate as a result of b12 deficiency.
The man had recently used whippets. The devices have become popular among teenagers in the US and UK in recent years. Used for foods like whipped cream, the nitrous oxide canisters can be cracked open and inhaled for a brief but intense high. Individual canisters are cheap and can easily be bought in bulk. Whipped cream cans also contain a nitrous oxide canister that can be used.
In response to the increasing use of the inhalant, officials in New York banned the purchase of nitrous oxide chargers by anyone under the age of 21. In the UK, doctors are warning of a ‘hippie crack’ epidemic that is likely to affect youngsters in particular, with serious brain development problems in the future.
A 32-year-old man began feeling tingling in his arms and lost function in his legs after he began using whippets. An MRI found hyperintensity on his spine, indicating his use of the gas had caused him to develop SCD
The case report was published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week.
The unnamed man had started using nitrous oxide two months before he saw a doctor, and it was just two weeks of frequent use before he first felt tingling sensations in his arms.
Weeks after the tingling started, his legs began to lose function.
At the hospital, he performed a Romberg test – in which a patient tries to keep their balance while standing upright with their eyes closed. It is a basic test to measure sensory function.
He lost his balance during the test, suggesting he suffered from some sort of sensory or cognitive disorder.
Doctors also noted that he had other balance issues and had trouble feeling vibrations on his body — another indication of nervous system issues.
An MRI scan discovered hyperintensity in his spine. Further testing revealed that he suffered from severe vitamin B12 deficiency and as a result developed SCD.
The use of nitrous oxide canisters is a known cause of vitamin B12 deficiency and the gas can inactivate it in the body.
The vitamin is crucial for maintaining nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, and a deficiency puts a person at risk of serious nervous system problems.
These dangers have spooked many officials as the use of gas canisters has become more common in the United States
Nitrous oxide chargers – often called whippets – can be inhaled to get a quick high. Many teenagers are starting to use the devices in the US and UK, worrying health officials (file photo)
Breathing the gas has also been linked to low blood pressure, fainting, heart attacks and sudden death.
To combat the increasing use of whippets, studies show that one in five Americans bought them before the age of 13.
“This new law is an important step in addressing a significant problem for many neighborhoods in my district,” said Democratic Senator Joseph Addabo, who supported the bill.
“The need to restrict the access and sale of (Whippets) first became apparent to me after receiving citizen complaints about empty (Whippets) on neighborhood streets.
“Used (Whippets) piling up in our communities are not only an eyesore but also point to a significant problem of nitrous oxide abuse.”