In The Silent World, Cousteau wrote about his early
experiences with the aqua lung:
I am personally quite receptive to nitrogen rapture. I like it and fear it like doom. It destroys the instinct of life. Tough individuals are not overcome as soon as neurasthenic persons like me, but they have difficulty extricating themselves. Intellectuals get drunk early and suffer acute attacks on all the senses, which demand hard fighting to overcome. When they have beaten the foe, they recover quickly. The agreeable glow of depth rapture resembles the giggle-party jags of the nineteen-twenties when flappers and sheiks convened to sniff nitrogen protoxide. L'ivresse des grandes profoundeurs has one salient advantage over alcohol no hangover. If one is able to escape from its zone, the brain clears instantly and there are no horrors in the morning. I cannot read accounts of a record dive without wanting to ask the champion how drunk he was. ref
Brubakk, Alf O.; Neuman, Tom S. (2003). Bennett and Elliott's physiology and medicine of diving, 5th Rev ed. United States: Saunders Ltd. pp. 304. ISBN 0702025712.
rowid first hand accounts
These molecules are believed to work by disrupting the membranes (or proteins within the membranes) of nerve cells. They need to be partially water soluble in order to get access to the brain via the blood, but they need to be lipid soluble to pass the blood-brain barrier and to have an effect on the nerve cell. Small nonpolar or partially polar molecules seem to fit the bill. The plot above shows how the anesthetic potency increases with oil solubility.
There have been attempts to link their activity to specific neural transmitters such as GABA or NMDA
Discovered by Joseph Priestly 1793 (who also discovered oxygen, ammonia, CO2,
CO and SO2 )
The analgesic properties of nitrous oxide have been known since Sir Humphry Davy described the relief he obtained from the discomfort of an infected tooth when he self administered the gas:
from an exhibit The relief of Pain and Suffering at the UCLA Darling Biomedical library
"On the day when the inflammation was most troublesome I breathed three large doses of nitrous oxide. The pain always diminished after the first four or five respirations. As the former state of mind returned, the state of the organ returned with it." -
used in cars, whipped
cream, dentists, parties
William James the philospher describes his experiences and some of the word play it introduced in an Article in Atlantic Monthly
Another poem about Nitrous oxide by William James
No verbiage can give it, because the verbiage is other.
And it fades! And it's infinite! AND it's infinite! . . .
Don't you see the difference, don't you see the identity?
Constantly opposites united!
The same me telling you to write and not to write!
Extreme--extreme, extreme! . . .
Something, and other than that thing!
Intoxication, and otherness than intoxication.
Every attempt at betterment,--every attempt at otherment,
It fades forever and forever as we move.
A list of other well known users
Some of the variety of risks.
Our society is very ambivalent about whether being intoxicated is wonderous or horrendous. We both seek it for celebration, bonding or escape and strongly forbid and punish it. We sanction it and yet impose sanctions on those who partake. This duality goes back at least to the Odyssey, compare the lotus-eaters and the uses of wine
Is TV an intoxicant, what about its dangers?