Symptoms and Signs of Nitrogen Narcosis

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/8/2021

Doctor's Notes on Nitrogen Narcosis

Nitrogen narcosis (also termed rapture of the deep) is a state of lightheadedness, semi stupor, and/or euphoria that can occur in deep sea divers breathing air under higher than atmospheric pressure. Signs and symptoms include

  • lightheadedness,
  • inattention and/or difficulty concentration,
  • poor judgement,
  • anxiety,
  • decreased coordination,
  • severe symptoms of hallucinations,
  • coma, and
  • death.

The cause of nitrogen narcosis is the breathing of compressed air, usually at depths greater than 100 feet (although it can occur in some people at 33 feet).

What Is the Treatment for Nitrogen Narcosis?

Like many health-related problems, the best treatment for nitrogen narcosis is prevention. This problem is mainly seen in scuba divers. Divers can exhibit symptoms when diving using compressed air and usually diving to depths below about 30-50 meters (98.5-164 feet). Treatment is started by recognizing the symptoms in yourself and/or your diving partner. Symptoms resolve within minutes during ascent. If symptoms persist, the dive should be canceled with a safe ascent to the surface by you and your diving partner. Death can occur if the diver experiences poor judgment during a deep dive.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.