Scuba Diving Fenomena Nitrogen Narcosis Explained

Seeking knowledge creates courage

Scuba diving is an amazing activity and a hobby worth pursuing for many reasons. However, as this sport is conducted in an underwater environment not natural to humans, there may be some risks attached. One of them is nitrogen narcosis. While it may sound like something fatal, this condition funnily enough gives you all the good sensations. When experiencing a nitrogen narcosis, you may feel lightheaded, a bit high and in a good mood, although your limbs may not be too cooperative.

Scuba Diving Fenomena - Nitrogen Narcosis

You may feel like you are standing upright, although your position is almost horizontal, along the sea bed. Everything around you seems like a joke, making you laugh and giggle at everything you see. While these symptoms sound like great fun, they might cause you misjudging the situation and diving conditions and endanger your health and safety. Logically nitrogen narcosis is a state we need to avoid while scuba diving. To better understand what it means and what happens in your body during this process, let us take a closer look at it.

Nitrogen narcosis and its anesthetic effect are caused by breathing nitrogen under pressure. This usually happens when diving at bigger depths, because the more a diver descends the higher the partial pressure of the gas mixture will become. The occurrence of the narcosis is considered to be connected with deep diving, because the bigger the depth of the dive is, the higher the degree of the narcosis will be. Still, nitrogen is not the only gas responsible for triggering this narcosis. Oxygen and carbon dioxide, also present in the gas mixture used by scuba divers, can cause this condition at bigger depths. So, in the end, any of these gases, at a higher partial pressure, might cause the same symptoms, which are similar to what one experiences when being drunk.

Still, how deep should a scuba diver go to avoid the risk of developing nitrogen narcosis? At a depth of approximately 30m divers can feel the effects of a mild narcosis. As mentioned before, the lower they will go, the more severe the symptoms will be. So at a depth of 40m, the signs of narcosis are quite critical. This is also the diving limit for recreational purposes, so diving organizations will not go lower or recommend such dives. But, there are divers that will take the challenge to go to depths between 50 and 60m, after intense trainings, although such experiences are not seen with good eyes by most divers. The highest risks are at depths of 60m and more because the narcosis has extremely debilitating symptoms and can make the diver even loose his conscience.

Nitrogen narcosis is felt just like when you are anesthetized, the state of mind being altered, but without losing conscience. The diver can feel happy and euphoric, or, on the contrary, can feel strong negative emotions, according to case. Unfortunately, both of these situations are unwanted and dangerous during scuba diving. The reason is simple - the diver won’t be able to respond properly to a risky situation. It means that the diver is not capable of recognizing the potential risks of a situation, such as exceeding the limit of air tank reserve, continuing the dive like there is nothing wrong. Thus, it is best to note every aspect you find awkward, even your thoughts, as they may be unusual in the given situation. And take action immediately if you notice something strange and out of place, because it may be a sign of narcosis.

Although nitrogen narcosis itself is not a fatal condition, it is always better to dive well within your certification and personal limits to prevent it in the first place. Once you recognize the symptoms of nitrogen narcosis, ascent to a shallower depth until the signs subside. If you feel like it, you may continue your dive, there is no need to abort it if the symptoms have disappeared.

Thinking of where to go next for your diving holiday? Read why we love diving in Padangbai.

Never been to Bali before? Check out our article about Diving in Bali.


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