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Effects of breathing nitrogen under increased pressure. In divers breathing compressed air, nitrogen saturates the nervous system, causing an intoxicating light-headed, numb feeling, then slowed reasoning and dexterity, and then emotional instability and irrationality. Severe cases progress to convulsions and blackout. Susceptibility varies, and severity increases with depth, but there are no aftereffects. Physical function remains normal, and divers may be unaware of the growing irrationality that can cause them to rise too fast (seedecompression sickness) or let their air supply run out. Helium, which dissolves less easily in body tissues, is substituted for nitrogen for deep dives.
Variants of NITROGEN NARCOSIS
nitrogen narcosis or nitrogen euphoria or raptures of the deep
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on nitrogen narcosis, visit Britannica.com.