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Nitrogen Narcosis: What It Is and How It Affects You

Anybody interested in diving beyond the 60 foot mark needs additional training that includes information on Nitrogen Narcosis. The cause of nitrogen narcosis is an increase in the partial pressure of the various gases breathed when diving. When it comes to recreational diving, the gas in question is nitrogen. With the partial pressure being high, more nitrogen is able to dissolve into your tissues. It dissolves into your brain’s nerve cells and in your fat tissues cause a disruption in signal transmission where the brain is concerned.

divers - nitrogen narcosis

The result can be a feeling of euphoria such that everything becomes suddenly funny. Along with this comes absentmindedness, which means that you are not able to monitor your diving instruments. On the other hand, you may begin to feel paranoid, which is often accompanied by anxiety. If not managed properly, this anxiety can worsen. Whichever way you lean the following will be true:

  • You will react slower
  • Simple tasks become hard to complete
  • Judgment, memory and coordination will be affected
  • Going deeper will make things worse

Dealing with Nitrogen Narcosis

To begin with, you will need to recognize it and know its effect on you. Other things will include:

  • Before the dive, get lots of rest and drink plenty of water. Exhaustion slows down your brain and narcosis will worsen that.
  • Do not drink alcohol before the dive. Alcohol and narcosis do not mix.
  • Don’t just suddenly go on a deep dive. Instead, build up your tolerance slowly through regular dives that go deeper each time. Even though you can never become narcosis tolerant, you can learn through experience how to cope with its effects on you.
  • Do not overexert yourself just before a dive. Avoid over exertion during the dive as well since accumulating too much CO2 can enhance narcosis.
  • When descending, go slow so that partial pressure increases slowly. It is a good idea to stop every 10 meters for half a minute.
  • If you are cold, narcosis increases so get warm and then ensure that you stay that way.
  • Keep everything simple and do not task load. It is a good idea to carry your slate and use it. Ensure that you have pre-written phrases on it.
  • Practice your emergency skills and other diving skills well ahead of time
  • Don’t be afraid to bring the dive to an end if you are not feeling too good.

To get rid of the narcosis, simply ascend so that you are at a depth that is shallower thus reducing the partial pressure. You should recover almost immediately. Being a diver, nitrogen narcosis is your enemy. Try to minimize its effects. We are here to help you to be a better scuba diver, contact us.