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
Nitrogen narcosis can lead to death.
Nitrogen Narcosis Treatment
When to Seek Medical Care
Seek medical treatment if symptoms persist.
Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/4/2016
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
N Stuart Harris, MD, MFA
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
James Kimo Takayesu, MD
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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape
Although decompression sickness (DCS), a complex resulting from changed barometric pressure, includes high-altitude–related and aerospace-related events, this article focuses on decompression associated with the sudden decrease in pressures during underwater ascent, usually occurring during free or assisted dives.