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Alcohol and deep diving: The Big Blue movie

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Well-Known Member
Oct 28, 2001

I would like to post this question here and perhaps someone with a technical or commercial diving background can help answer:

In the movie "The Big Blue", there's a scene where the main characters take a commercial diving job going down in a diving bell to 800'+. Each took a few drops of alcohol, were warned by a fellow diver/worker not to as it was dangerous, and were drunk (?), singing and dancing at depth by the end of the scene.

My question is: What's the physiological effect of alcohol intake at high pressure / depth when divers are breathing something other than air? I don't know if the situation was trimix or heliox or some other gases used in commercial diving. If there was nitrogen in the mix they were breathing, does the alcohol amplify N2 narcosis? Does alcohol metabolism gets affected somehow by depth? Some kind of gas toxicity effect (high PPO2 + alcohol = superdrunk)? I just got the impression that this kind of stunt would be highly dangerous in real life.

Any answers gratefully received,

Peter S.
Last edited:
This is what I know:

- A high nitrogen level acts as an NMDA antagonist (N-Methyl-D-Aspartate receptor site)
- Alcohol is also an NMDA antagonist

Anything which is an NMDA antagonist gives a feeling of being drunk and interrupts the storage of memories.

Combining alcohol and high nitrogen, would, in theory, then just result in an additive effect, of being superdrunk.

Perhaps there are other effects as well?

By the way, NMDA receptors are in the brain, and they control GABA activity indirectly. High GABA levels are associated with sleepiness, meditation, etc...

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
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