What is the Martini effect meaning in diving?

Why is nitrogen narcosis called The Martini effect

The Martini Effect meaning is the slang term for nitrogen narcosis. Where the name the “Martini Effect” comes from the fact that some divers feel drunk when affected by nitrogen narcosis. Narcosis is affected by deeper diving. The deeper the diver, the stronger the nitrogen narcosis will be. Scuba divers have said that for every 10 meters (33 feet) of depth, this will have the same effect as drinking one Martini.


The Martini Effect is a slang term used by some scuba divers to refer to nitrogen narcosis or the narks. Another slang term that was used to describe narcosis by Jacques Cousteau is "Raptures of the Deep".

Nitrogen narcosis or the "Martini Effect" is the physical and mental impairment that can be experienced by scuba divers on deeper dives. When I say deeper, the narks is generally experienced on dives in excess of 30 metres (98 feet).

More Reading: What causes nitrogen narcosis? (Is ‘raptures of the deep’ dangerous?)

But why the name "Martini Effect"?

The name the "Martini Effect" comes from the fact that some divers affected by nitrogen narcosis feel drunk. And in the same way that alcohol impairs judgement, nitrogen narcosis also impairs a diver's ability to think clearly or to act in a coordinated manner.

Narcosis is affected by deeper diving. The deeper a diver descends, the stronger the nitrogen narcosis will be. Which is where the slang term originates.

Scuba divers have said that for every 10 meters (33 feet) of depth, this will have the same effect as drinking one Martini. So at a depth of 30 metres (98 feet), which is when the affect of narcosis is most noticed, this is the equivalent of having drunk three Martinis!

Although the onset of nitrogen narcosis or the Martini Effect is much quicker than it is getting drunk.

Don't be fooled by the innocuous name - The Martini Effect

The name "Martini Effect" makes it sound fairly innocuous. It also implies that the experience of being "narked" on a dive may be pleasant. Which this can be true.

Some divers experience euphoria, whereas others may experience anxiety or 'terror'. However, don't under estimate the effects of nitrogen narcosis. This is because some of the symptoms can be extremely dangerous. In the worst cases, the symptoms can lead to unconsciousness or even death.

But it's some of the other symptoms that on the face of it seem fairly innocuous in a similar way to the name Martini effect, but the consequences could become serious.

For example, reasoning, short term memory and motor coordination are symptoms of nitrogen narcosis. These symptoms can lead to calculation errors or bad decisions.

This could result in a serious underwater incident. For example, forgetting to check your air or over-running on the dive time. An over-run on dive time could lead to a requirement for an unplanned decompression stop. This in turn could mean you don't have enough air to get back to the surface safely.

More Reading: How do you do a decompression stop vs a safety stop

It's also been known for some narked divers to take their regulator or mouthpiece from their mouth. When they've done so they've not realised they're still underwater. I don't need to explain how this could go terribly wrong!

I hope you enjoyed this article about why is nitrogen narcosis called The Martini effect

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If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about snorkeling or scuba diving (or specifically about why is nitrogen narcosis called The Martini effect), please comment below with your questions.

There will also be many more articles about scuba diving (and snorkeling) for you to read and learn about these fabulous sports.

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