Whippets may sound like a party favor. But there's nothing favorable about these wicked little nitrous oxide cartridges. Sure, they might ignite a 30-second laugh. They might also paralyze your lower limbs -- or lead you to drive right off a bridge.

That's what happened in Detroit. Downtown's Fort Street Bridge to be precise. Okay, so the driver didn't officially drive off the bridge. He did try to jump it though. Yes, jump it. See, it's a drawbridge. And yes, it was open.

Well, opening anyway. The quick-thinking bridge tender hit the emergency brake so the bridge stopped before it could fully open. It had opened enough to get the car airborne though. And its landing blew out its windshield, as well as all four tires.

No one was injured. Not even the driver. They were lucky. Damn lucky. One arm of the Fort Street Bridge wasn't quite so lucky. It was smashed to bits. Then again, that's kinda what happens when a car plows through something.

Yeah, we know. The incident sounds humorous. BroBible certainly thought so when they wrote it up. The cops kinda thought so too. Likening it to something straight out of The Dukes of Hazzard. The bridge tender thought it was more Blues Brothers. But you get the idea.

Thing is, whippets aren't funny. Not one bit. Why? Because they take little bites right out of your brain. Huff whippets long enough and those bites become chunks. Subtract enough chunks and you could lose movement in your legs. In other words, you won't be able to walk. Is that worth a 30-second laugh?

Whippets in Detroit

No one really knows why whippets blew up in Detroit. Not that we could find anyway. Sure, there are theories. Some say it's because whippets are dirt cheap and widely available. Others say it's cuz they appear to be harmless. Whippets also happen to be legal. (Though driving while impaired on whippets is neither legal nor smart.) But whippets are cheap and available and legal everywhere... so why Detroit?

That's the question which concerned a large group of community members. In fact, these members were so concerned that they rallied together and formed a coalition in order to find answers.

The coalition is called the Southwest Detroit Whippet Wipe Out Campaign. It's being helmed by The Ideal Group, which itself is a coalition of sorts. And the conglomerate's assembled a vast cross-section of concerned citizens, from regional nonprofits such as CANDLE Inc to the City of Detroit itself.

"As a community, we have a growing concern about the volume of whippets being abused by residents who are breathing in nitrous oxide from a whipped cream dispenser to get high," Ideal Group Chairman and CEO Frank Venegas Jr. told Click on Detroit's Kayla Clarke. "This behavior can be incredibly dangerous -- and even fatal in some instances."

Indeed. But bringing attention to such an elusive issue is tricky. There isn't the onslaught of arrest records and overdose stats that exist with other substance abuse issues. In fact, despite the coalition's long list of members, many folks don't even realize the problem itself really exists.

So what to do? Well, if you're Detroit's Wipe Out the Whippets team, the first thing you do is take to the streets and collect tell-tale evidence of the problem.

That's exactly what the Southwest Detroit Whippet Wipe Out Campaign did. And over the course of one month the coalition gathered over 25,000 spent nitrous cartridges from just two Detroit zip codes (48209 and 48210). Now they've got to get that evidence to those who can do something about the problem. Considering the coalition itself consists of just those kinds of community members, it's a cinch things will start getting done -- and soon.

"We formed this coalition to engage and educate our community about the public health and safety issues that are created by using whippets," added Mr. Venegas. We say in that regard they're already well on the way!

Southwest Detroit Whippet Wipe Out Campaign

Here's the list of coalition members:

  • CANDLE Inc.
  • City of Detroit
  • City of Detroit Council Member Raquel Casteñeda-Lopez
  • Clark Park Coalition
  • Detroit Cristo Rey High School
  • Detroit Fire Department
  • Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation
  • Detroit Police Department
  • Ferrous Processing, Inc.
  • LA SED
  • Marathon Petroleum Refinery – Detroit
  • Michigan State Senator Stephanie Chang
  • Southwest Detroit Business Association
  • Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision
  • The Ideal Group
  • Urban Neighborhood Initiatives

There's No Such Thing as Whippet Good

The only good "Whip It" comes from Devo and they're from Akron. Other than that -- forget it. Sure, whippets sound innocent enough. (Hey, whipped  cream!) But it's not. It's nitrous oxide. That's a gas. And while some may call it a laughing gas, there's nothing funny about it. It's especially unfunny when you run out of whippets then break out the duster. And that's just what happens. People become huffers. Imagine taking a spoon, inserting it into your ear, and scooping out a chunk of brain. Yeah, it's like that.

So, no, Recovery Boot Camp does not condone whippets. We couldn't possibly. Not after learning about the trouble in Detroit. And not after learning about possible lower limb paralysis. That's right. We weren't making up the malady. It's called paracesis. It means losing control of your lower extremities (i.e. your legs). It occurs after too much huffing. Whippets or otherwise. And it's not only real, but it can also kill you. No foolin.'

If you've got problems with whippets or anything else please call someone for help. A rehab. A helpline. Heck, you can even call us. We'll help you get help. No matter where you are or what's troubling you. In fact, it would be our honor.

(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

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