Scubadoc’s Ten Foot Stop

September 2, 2009

Scuba Diving Problems with Gases and Pressure – 101, Nitrogen Narcosis

Filed under: Publication — admin @ 4:02 pm

Chapter 2

Nitrogen Narcosis

(“Raptures of the Deep”)

What is it?

Nitrogen narcosis is an effect on the brain of gaseous nitrogen that occurs to divers who go below 100 FSW, due to the laws of partial pressures. Nitrogen is an inert gas existing in largest quantity in the atmosphere, 79% in air. It is inert, meaning that it does not take part in energy transformations. It is the gas that causes nitrogen narcosis through the effect of Dalton’s law and it is the gas that causes decompression sickness on ascent from depth with reduction of pressure, (Boyle’s Law). Nitrogen is the gas that determines decompression schedules.

What are some of the effects?

Complex reasoning decreases 33% and manual dexterity decreases 7.3%. The condition causes loss of motor function and decision making ability and can be more clearly defined as causing one to become “drunk”, as with alcoholic beverages. The comparison to having had “three Martinis” is apt, and it has been stated that one should consider the narcotic effect of one Martini for every 50 feet of sea water.

What is Dalton’s Law?

Dalton’s Law states that the total pressure exerted by a mixture of gases is equal to the sum of the pressure of each of the different gases making up the mixture – each gas acting as if it alone was present and occupying the total volume. This same law causes oxygen toxicity and enhances the role of contaminant gases such as carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons.

The law is stated as:

p ATA=pO2 + pN2 + p other gases

thus: pN2= fN2 x ATA

How does nitrogen affect the nervous system?

There is a critical volume hypothesis that states there to be an increased volume of nitrogen in the membranes and this relates to solubility. This explains the pressure reversal of anesthetics. Nitrogen narcosis is potentiated by increased CO2 levels.

How can it be prevented?

Avoid deep diving below 100 feet sea water. Certain factors increase the possibility of nitrogen narcosis:

* Cold

* Stress

* Heavy work and fatigue

* CO2 retention

How is nitrogen narcosis treated?

Treatment of nitrogen narcosis is immediate controlled ascent to the surface, with the buddy or divemaster observing the diver for unusual behavior, administration of O2 and temporary cessation of diving. Prevention should be the best treatment, with no further diving below 100 feet.

Risk Assessment for Divers


Severity of Harm possible – Drowning would be the worst case scenario.


Likelihood of Harmful Outcome. The likelihood of a serious outcome is dependent upon numerous factors we are unable to predict. Given the usual controlled recreational diving situation a harmful outcome is very unlikely.


Risk factors, Avoidable? Yes [see modifiers above]


Is it Worth It? Yes. The risk of nitrogen narcosis is far overweighed by the personal advantages of recreational scuba diving. This is a personal viewpoint.

Deep Thoughts, in DAN’s Alert Diver


Medline References, N2 Narcosis


Steve and Kristine Barsky Win Historical Diving Society Award

Filed under: News — admin @ 1:32 pm

HDS Advisory Board has awarded the E.R. Cross Award to the Barskys.
Kristine and Steve Barsky
HDS E.R. Cross Award – Steve and Kristine Barsky
The Barskys have been long time members and supporters of the Society, volunteering in numerous roles and assisting with the Societies administration. Their diving careers span several decades. Steve is a former Society Director and Kristine a former Society recording secretary.

The Barskys are prominent for making excellent teaching videos about diving safety.

1st Annual New Jersey Diving Medicine Symposium

Filed under: News — admin @ 1:16 pm
1st Annual New Jersey Diving Medicine Symposium

I’m very pleased to announce the 1st annual New Jersey Diving Medicine Symposium: Diver’s Day.

Where: Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ Institute of Coastal and Marine Sciences
When: Saturday, October 3rd, 2009 12pm-6pm

Who: Experts in the field of Diving Medicine

Christopher Logue, M.D. University of Pennsylvania–Diabetes and Diving
David Lambert, M.D. University of Pennsylvania–Asthma and Diving
Nick Bird, M.D. VP Medical Services, DAN–Careers in diving
Matthew Partrick, M.D. Southern Ocean County Hospital–Diving Expedition Medicine
Bernie Chowdhury, C.H.T., TDI Instructor, author of “The Last Dive.”

Why: To educate the northeast diving community on various aspects of diving medicine

Link to full website to follow. Admission is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided as well as a booth from DAN and other local dive shops. Hope to see everyone there.

Matthew Partrick

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