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Nitrogen Narcosis

Nitrogen Narcosis Overview

Breathing nitrogen under pressure produces an intoxicating effect known as nitrogen narcosis. Most divers experience symptoms of nitrogen narcosis at depths greater than 100 feet, but symptoms may occur in depths as little as 33 feet. For this reason, use of compressed air deeper than 120 feet is not recommended.

Ascent reverses the symptoms of nitrogen narcosis. Factors that increase the risk of narcosis include cold temperatures, rapid descent, anxiety, alcohol, sedatives, fatigue, and carbon dioxide excess.

Nitrogen Narcosis Symptoms

Patient Comments
  • Symptoms include light-headedness, inattention, difficulty concentrating, poor judgment, anxiety, decreased coordination, hallucinations, and coma. Nitrogen narcosis can lead to death.

Nitrogen Narcosis Treatment

Patient Comments
  • Ascend from the depth at which the symptoms become apparent.
  • If symptoms fail to resolve after ascent, narcosis is not the cause of the symptoms.

When to Seek Medical Care

  • Seek medical treatment if symptoms persist.

Medically reviewed by Donald Lee, DO; Board Certified Family Practice


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/10/2014
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