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Nitrogen Narcosis

Travel Guide Travel Health Nitrogen Narcosis

Nitrogen Narcosis occurs due to the toxic properties of nitrogen at high pressures.

Recall that water is much denser than air, and as such underwater pressure increases rapidly as you descend.
Recall also that atmospheric air is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% other impurities.

The increased pressure of your surroundings while scuba diving mean the air you breathe is more compressed. This means with each breath you are taking in more nitrogen than you would be at the surface. The deeper you go, the more nitrogen.

The result of this increased nitrogen in your blood differs from person to person, but most usually it can be compared to a feeling of extreme alcohol intoxication. Although each body will have different tolerances for nitrogen in their blood, an average diver will begin to experience nitrogen narcosis at depths below 18 metres. By 30 metres, most if not all divers are beginning to experience to effects of nitrogen narcosis.

The danger of narcosis is that being drunk underwater can be disorienting and frightening. Nitrogen Narcosis has a proven ability to impair your decision making in a dangerous environment, and therefore it is best to attempt to avoid it.

If you feel you are becoming intoxicated, stop descending immediately. An ascent, even a slight one, will usually lift the effects of the narcosis.

A large aspect of overcoming the effects of nitrogen narcosis is mental: understand that at depths you will experience intoxication, and act to limit it's effects on you. Remember, you still have the right to call off a dive at any time. If you feel disoriented while deep diving, inform the dive leader immediately.

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This is version 2. Last edited at 15:20 on Jul 6, 10 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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