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"Narc" Scuba  Diving
by David Holt NAUI #15465

Many sport divers consider the "high" associated with Nitrogen Narcosis to be a desirable event.  I have to admit that I like it too.  In fact, sometimes it brings me back to the good 'ol days of the late 70's and early 80's when life was simple.  Most of you know what I mean... But, let's consider some of the dangers associated with breathing compressed air at depths below 80 feet.

The Basic Scuba Diver Course teaches that as the pressure increases the volume of the breathable air decreases and its density increases.  This increase in density is the basis for the dive tables.  The human body is allowed to absorb more Oxygen and more Nitrogen than it normally would at the surface.  The Oxygen is a good thing - we feel great.  However, the nitrogen is physiologically inert (meaning it is not metabolized - the body doesn't use it or need it to survive).  However, it is absorbed in all body tissues and therefore has an affect on the body.  When excess nitrogen is absorbed into the cerebral tissues (the brain) it interferes with the nervous system.  The more nitrogen present, the greater loss of performance.  The results are impairment of intellectual capacity, degradation of neuromuscular performance, and changes in mood and behavior.

The narcosis effect poses a significant danger to the diver because; as it increases the risk of an accident due to inability to perform it also decreases the diver's perception that a problem exists.  The danger is that under the influence of narcosis, divers may make decisions that place them at risk.  The degradation of performance and perception caused by narcosis is the primary reason for the sport diving limit of 130 feet.

In warm, clear water, divers may first feel euphoric and overconfident, rather like the feeling of invulnerability that arises from breathing Nitrous Oxide at the dentist office.  In cold, limited visibility, the diver may develop a sense of foreboding or impending doom that may even escalate to terror and panic.

On dives more than 80 feet, be careful and be trained and certified to go there in the first place.  Nitrogen Narcosis affects every diver and the danger is the dive may not be aware that he/she is even effected.

Dive safe...
Bwana
 


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