What is Nitrogen Narcosis? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments Explained


Scuba diving is a fun activity, as often told, but it has its perks. If there isn’t an effect on territorial (marine) life, there are consequences for divers. One of the many things that divers encounter is Nitrogen Narcosis. It is a term used to describe the effect of Nitrogen on a diver’s health. It can range from mild to severe, depending on a diver’s exposure.

Nitrogen Narcosis is almost like the narcotic effect of alcohol on the body, and its effects are detrimental. In this article, you will find out the meaning, symptoms, causes, and treatments of this condition.

Read on Mask Squeeze and how to prevent it here.

What is Nitrogen Narcosis: What Causes It?

Nitrogen Narcosis, also called Narks, The Martini Effect, Inert Gas Narcosis, and Rapture of the Deep, is common in deep-sea divers. Exposure to inert gases like Oxygen and Nitrogen at higher depths makes divers appear drunk.

Since divers use oxygen tanks for underwater breathing, there isn’t a way they won’t be exposed to these gases. However, this often happens when they swim deeper, up to 100 feet or more. As they go deeper, pressure is increased, and it alters these gases, making them unstable for use.

Unfortunately, the exact causes of Nitrogen Narcosis are yet unknown. It is, however, agreeable that inhaling air from a tank under increased pressure can pump gases like Nitrogen and Oxygen into the body system. This condition is temporary, but it can be severe if it goes down to the central nervous system.

What are the Symptoms of The Martini Effect?

Deep-sea divers experience different symptoms of the Rapture of the Deep, i.e., Nitrogen Narcosis. These symptoms often depend on the level of exposure.

Below is a list of the commonly experienced symptoms of the condition amongst divers.

Short-term amnesia

Hallucinations or Altered Perception

Hyper focusing and Perceptual Narrowing

Poor muscle and nerve function

Lack of concentration

Euphoria, Paranoia, Anxiety, Panic, and Sadness


Dizziness and Nausea

Poor sense of diving judgment

In severe conditions, a diver can experience frequent dizziness, coma, and death.

Do Some People Show Resistance to this Condition?

As much as deep-sea divers are susceptible to this underwater condition, some people show resistance.

If you do the following, there is a good chance you will face a higher risk of developing Narks.

Get drunk before diving

Get easily fatigued

Develop hypothermia often – before or during dive

Show anxiety at all times

In essence, keeping your system rid of alcohol before diving is important so that the unstable gases at higher depths won’t mix with the content in your system.

Are there Complications with Nitrogen Narcosis?

Nitrogen Narcosis isn’t a permanent condition, but the effects can be debilitating for some divers – hence, there are complications. If you don’t watch out for the following symptoms after getting back to the surface, you could experience Decompression Sickness.

Headaches and Migraines

Loss of Appetite

Joint and Muscle Pain

Frequent Fatigue and Dizziness

Chest Pain

Body Swelling

Difficult Breathing

Gibberish Talking

Muscle weakness and spasms

Blurred vision

General Malaise

If you are worried you might experience Decompression Sickness on getting back to the surface; you can decide to try out some things beforehand.

Drink a lot of water

Do not rush to the surface – slow ascent is great

Take dive gaps

Use the proper gear

Spend little time in higher depths

Avoid traveling by air immediately after a dive

How Can Nitrogen Narcosis Be Treated Effectively?

Narcosis (or Narks) is an unpredictable condition that happens to deep-sea divers even before realizing it. So, if you are within 100 ft depth or higher, you should prepare yourself for anything.

The following treatments can, however, be used if a diver ever experiences narcosis.

Ascend and Take a Reassessment

The only significant treatment is getting back to the surface and reassessing before the worst symptoms start setting in, i.e., ultimately becoming decompression sickness.

For mild symptoms, staying at shallow depths can help until you finally can get a hold of yourself. If it doesn’t work, get to the surface and relax a bit.

Taking a reassessment of your dive sure works.

See a Doctor

If you don’t feel better after reaching the surface, you should see a doctor with the symptoms becoming more assertive. You must do this so that the worst effects, i.e., unconsciousness, coma, or death, won’t happen.

How to Prevent Nitrogen Narcosis?

Since it is a condition that can be avoided, you should check out the tips below on how to prevent narcosis.

Practice the Buddy Diving Technique

Being in sync with a fellow diver can help prevent Nitrogen Narcosis. It would be best if you checked in every now and then – with hand signals, for pressure levels and gas consumption rate. If you can discuss perfectly with your buddy, you shouldn’t have a problem when scuba diving.

Keep a Simple Profile and Avoid Extending Limits

Planning a simple dive sure helps. If you haven’t gone beyond certain limits, you shouldn’t push yourself. Practice first, and record observations before you finally go beyond the usual.

Keep Gases Diluted

The higher the concentration of the gases, the more the symptomatic effects of narcosis. Therefore, diluting Oxygen in the tank with Hydrogen or Helium in place of Nitrogen can help your dive experience and ultimately health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can the Risk of Nitrogen Narcosis Be Reduced?

Yes, it can. Deep-sea diving is a daring task, and you have to be physically fit before you can accomplish this task, successfully. Therefore, ensure that there no drugs or alcohol in your system before diving.

How Dangerous is Nitrogen Narcosis?

Nitrogen Narcosis is not dangerous; however, the symptoms can cause debilitating or life-threatening effects, such as coma and death.


Nitrogen Narcosis is an important condition that many divers should know about – especially deep sea enthusiasts. It is a mild condition that needs to be paid attention to so that the effects don’t end up being serious. Overall, as long as you are physically fit to dive and consistently work within your limits, you shouldn’t have a problem.