Alternately called the “compressed air intoxication” or “raptures of the deep”, nitrogen narcosis is a very real threat for divers who wish to truly test their mettle by making extremely deep descents. And while it is a relatively rare phenomenon, this has proven to be of very little consolation to divers who have succumbed to its effects. For this reason, we will attempt to explain what nitrogen narcosis is, its symptoms and how it can be avoided.

What is Nitrogen Narcosis?

Nitrogen narcosis is an altered state of consciousness that is cause by breathing in high concentrations of nitrogen while underwater. Oddly enough, the same phenomenon occurs with sky diving at about 100ft the air. The higher the nitrogen concentration is in the bloodstream stream, the more like a diver is to experience the intoxicating effects which are a part ofa syndrome that occurs with nitrogen narcosis. This intoxicating effect can seriously impair a diver’s judgment and possibly even lead to her placing herself in danger. The symptoms of nitrogen narcosis include:

  • Slowed mental abilities
  • Numbness
  • Euphoria
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Sudden depression
  • Convulsions

5 Ways to Avoid Nitrogen Narcosis

There are several things you can do to avoid — or at least manage — nitrogen narcosis. These include:

  • Take a course in deep diving from a qualified instructor: A certified PADI instructor in Maui will be able to help you learn the warning signs of nitrogen narcosis and how to deal with it if and when it occurs.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs: It goes without saying that one should never dive while intoxicated. However, alcohol will only amplify the effects of a condition many liken to a form of inebriation.
  • Plan your dive wisely: Before you decide to dive, know how deeply you will dive, your route, your hand signals, etc.
  • Watch your dive buddy: Watch your dive buddy for indications that he or she may be exhibiting signs of nitrogen narcosis. If you do suspect that your dive buddy has succumbed to this phenomenon, then try signaling to her. If she does not respond then it is a strong indication that she may be suffering from narcosis. Finally, look out for erratic behavior in your partner such as uncontrolled laughter or an attempt to remove her mask.
  • When in doubt, ascend: If you believe that you may be suffering from narcosis, ascend 10 to 20 feet. This will help clear your head.

In short, preparedness, practice and planning are the key elements to successfully avoiding and/or minimizing nitrogen narcosis. Deep dives are a fun way to explore a world that many people never experience. You can do so – with the proper training – on one of our custom diving packages in Maui. Aloha!