Font Size

Nitrogen Narcosis

Nitrogen Narcosis Facts

  • 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: 

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 for Nitrogen Narcosis

Seek medical treatment if symptoms persist.

Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine


"Complications of SCUBA diving"

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/25/2016
Medical Author:
Medical Editor:
Medical Editor:
Medical Editor:

Must Read Articles Related to Wilderness: Nitrogen Narcosis

Scuba Diving Emergency Contacts
Wilderness: Diving Emergency Contacts Diving (SCUBA) emergency contacts worldwide. Find information and numbers for scuba diving emergencies accross the globe.learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Scuba Diving: Nitrogen Narcosis:

Nitrogen Narcosis - Symptoms

What symptoms did you experience from nitrogen narcosis?

Nitrogen Narcosis - Treatment

What treatment did you receive for nitrogen narcosis?

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Decompression Sickness »

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.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary