Amazing, but Worrying Hypoxia
Nitrous Oxide
Citation:   Trajork. "Amazing, but Worrying Hypoxia: An Experience with Nitrous Oxide (exp105232)". Nov 25, 2022.

120 carts. inhaled Nitrous Oxide (gas)
I was by myself on New Yearsí Eve and decided to celebrate in grand style. I had ordered 120 8g cartridges of Ultra Pure-Whip N2O from an online seller along with a small (250 ml) whipped cream dispenser. Iíve done nitrous a couple of times before and enjoyed it, but Iím by no means a regular user and had never done it in this quantity. I didnít necessarily plan to go through all 120 that night, but perhaps unsurprisingly thatís what happened. In part for safety but more for curiosity, I also bought a $20 finger pulse oximeter to measure my blood oxygen as I was inhaling the gas from a large punch balloon. I also had a scale which I used to measure the weights of cartridges before and after use, as well as to measure gas escape from the dispenser.

Despite being the small size, the whipped cream maker did hold 2 cartridges of gas easily provided that the second cartridge was left securely in the nozzle that cracks the N2O as the balloon was being filled. Unscrewing the nozzle and releasing the second cartridge usually resulted in the loss of about 1.5 g of gas, so I didnít do it after the first couple of tries. Occasionally significant gas loss would happen while replacing the first cartridge as well, but this was rare and more typical losses were around 0.2 g, which I was more than willing to accept as the price for having two cartridgesí worth of gas in the balloon instead of one.

I filled the whipped cream dispenser with two cartridges, lay down on the couch with my basset hound curled up at my feet, and released into the balloon. It was a very interesting experience overall. Visuals consisted mostly of bright static, sounds were distorted, and I heard the classic wah-wah sound when I wasnít listening to music. Music itself was enhanced much like with DXM, but with even more pleasant sound distortion. The peak effects of course only lasted a minute or two even at about 2 deep breaths/cartridge or 4/balloon, which is what I expected. After coming down somewhat, I would feel the need to reload the dispenser and blast off again, in part to continue whatever profound-seeming thoughts I was having at the peak.
I would feel the need to reload the dispenser and blast off again, in part to continue whatever profound-seeming thoughts I was having at the peak.
I definitely see how this stuff is addictive. Although I did keep a rough count of how many cartridges Iíd done and knew I was blowing through the whole supply, that was perfectly fine by me. I took a few breaks to record the weights and oxygen saturation (more on that later) and to eat dinner, but by and large I was under the influence to some extent or another for roughly five hours.

The trains of thought I had were satisfying and felt profound, with the biggest problem being that the peak of the experience never lasted long enough to get very far. Nonetheless I was able to suddenly ďrememberĒ and pick up from where I left off to some extent with each new balloon.

Probably the most interesting insight that I took away had to do with that feeling of profundity itself and how Iím constantly chasing it even though it doesnít last long. Iíve been in and left three different grad programs in the 4.5 year period following my graduation from undergrad in 2010 (physics, biology, and atmospheric science), always losing interest after several months of learning the basics of the field and not being able to motivate myself to go on. The result is that I know a lot about science broadly but not enough about any given field to actually be a scientist, and Iíve been quite depressed lately in large part because of my failure to stay interested in anything for sustained periods of time.

By feeling like I was having profound revelations while peaking only to have the feeling fade away and leave me scrambling for another hit, nitrous showed me how I was really doing this on a longer timescale in my own life. The feeling of profundity is powerful when Iím first learning about something, but fades away before I can actually do real research in the area, causing me to lose interest. In this way it seemed like my nitrous experiences were mirroring (and teaching me about) my life choices on a timescale of about two minutes rather than about a year like my grad school attempts.

I also got to see how the linear, abstract part of my mind (which everyone associates with the left brain) and the concrete and more creative part (right) played along together; the nitrous enhanced creative thought dramatically but for very short amounts of time, leaving the left brain scrambling to take coherent notes. It seems to have taught me to have some more respect for my right brain even though its input canít be written down directly. Not that I dismissed it before, but the nitrous along with attempting to take notes and remember measurements from my scale and oximeter long enough to write them down allowed me to appreciate how integral both hemispheres are by forcing me to cycle rapidly between right- and left-brained states. I havenít experienced a better way to appreciate the contrast.

Side note: the fact that ďleft-brainedĒ activity isnít really done entirely by the left hemisphere and vice versa for the right, when coupled with the fact that this is totally irrelevant when what youíre trying to describe is a mental state, is itself a very good example that contrasts left vs right brained thinking. There was a lot of that sort of self-referential thinking to demonstrate any concept that couldnít be put into words.

Finally, the feelings of profundity from hitting the N2O and the mundane feeling from coming down started to merge towards each other as I approached the end of the box, so that I did remember the insights I had but didnít necessarily feel like I was having huge revelations every time I breathed nitrous. Then it hit me that this was a sign of actually learning something that will stick, causing a feeling of meta-profundity. Indeed it has stuck now that I write this two days later. This drug loves being meta.

After running out, I wasnít disappointed, feeling like the mission was accomplished. I spent another hour or two feeling sort of dreamy, relaxed, and slightly dissociated before returning to baseline. Coincidentally this was right around the time the new year arrived, which of course felt significant to me.

Iíll end with a cautionary note. I mentioned I was using an oximeter on my finger to measure my oxygen saturation. I figured a couple of breaths followed by air wouldnít cause serious effects but would still be worth measuring. The reduction in oxygen saturation was much, much more severe than I had counted on, which makes sense in retrospect but is still alarming. At baseline, it was the usual healthy 96-99%, which I expected. A single deep breath held for long enough to produce a peak experience always caused oxygen saturation to crash below 75%
A single deep breath held for long enough to produce a peak experience always caused oxygen saturation to crash below 75%
; it usually bottomed out around 45-65%. Two usually caused it to crash below 50% and often all the way to 31%, which is the lowest it could record. The lowest readings were usually recorded around 15 seconds after releasing the breath, and the level would never stay below 70% for long (I would guess never longer than 15-20 seconds even when it briefly touched 31%, although my mind wasnít likely the best at judging time while hypoxic and nitrous-addled). Even blowing air into the balloon before breathing from it or deliberately taking in some air along with or alternated with the nitrous would either still cause blood oxygen to fall very low (although not quite as low), cause a much more mild experience, or some combination of the two. I suspect that, although the nitrous itself does most of the work, hypoxia probably contributes to some of the peak effects caused by breathing nitrous from a balloon.

From what I can find, readings below 85% are considered severe hypoxia when dealing with patients who are in respiratory distress. Of course thatís designed for hypoxia that lasts for more than a matter of seconds, unlike breathing nitrous, so as long as I am getting oxygenated air after breathing I doubt thereís any risk of death. But I have serious doubts about whether even ~15-second exposures to profoundly low blood oxygen, done thousands of times over the course of a nitrous-hufferís lifetime, is safe in terms of not causing cumulative brain damage or other health problems. By way of comparison, breathing out and then holding my breath for 30 seconds hasnít brought my blood oxygen below 90%, nor has breathing in and holding for 60 seconds. Breathing an inert gas is much worse than holding your breath, presumably because thereís still quite a bit of oxygen even in a deflated lung, but N2O displaces that oxygen entirely.

Overall, I had a great and insightful experience, but in light of the hypoxia along with the obvious addictiveness, high cost, and B12 depletion, Iím probably not going to do it again. Certainly not soon anyway. Iíd recommend people who do want to do nitrous consider buying a pulse oximeter - theyíre cheap, comfortable, and may help you minimize the risk. And not least, itís extremely trippy to watch your body use oxygen in real time - after breathing normally, the less oxygenated blood still comes back every 15-20 seconds so that the readings oscillate up and down a few times in a heavily damped wave before returning to stable baseline at about the minute mark (and never being anywhere near as low on the second wave). But be careful and try to stay as oxygenated as you can.

Exp Year: 2014ExpID: 105232
Gender: Male 
Age at time of experience: 25
Published: Nov 25, 2022Views: 2,303
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Nitrous Oxide (40) : General (1), Alone (16)

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