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Nitrous Oxide N2O, Laughing gas

 
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  #1  
Old 07-10-2011, 07:16
Paradox Paradox is offline
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A treatice on re-breathing.

So,

SWIM has heard multiple things about re-breathing nitrous. He's heard that after a while, a SWIMmer is just breathing CO2, that the nitrous is depleted, that it expends the O2 levels more rapidly, ect. Now, SWIM has some background in biology in chemistry, so this got him to thinking: What actually happens, and what are the mechanisms behind it?

The first thought SWIM had was "Well, it makes sense. N2O is depleted in the balloon and replaced by CO2, just like in normal respiration. But, a problem arises. To SWIM's knowledge, N2O isn't capable of donating it's oxygen to biological processes (becoming N2 and the oxygen going on to become CO2 later.) Otherwise, a SWIMmer wouldn't become hypoxic. (He could be wrong on this and there could be an internal metabolism for N2O, but he couldn't find any references.) So, at least to some degree, N2O must be maintained during re-breathing. But what about CO2 levels, or more importantly the concentration of CO2 (Shortened to [CO2]).

Well, gas exchange in the lungs is regulated by relative concentration. Under normal respiratory conditions, intake air has ~.1% CO2, and exhaled air has ~4% CO2. So, one would think that as the balloon is re-breathed, the concentration of CO2 would raise 4% each breath, right? But the problem is this: Once the [CO2] in the balloon is greater than the [CO2] in the lungs, the CO2 in the balloon would actually move back into the blood, until the two levels reach an equilibrium. So, the levels of CO2 in the balloon can't actually get significantly above 4%.

So far, SWIM and friends have established that the total N2O is (relatively) conserved, and [CO2] can't rise above 4%. So, theoretically, this would mean that no matter how many times one re-breathed the same nitrous, it would have the effects of a 96% mixture. If that were the case, one could stay elevated off of the same balloon for an entire night, in theory. There is clearly something going on here that prevents this, as any SWIMmer will say that eventually, re-breathing reduces the effectiveness (which must be measured in % N2O in the mixture) of the balloon.

So, after much deliberation, SWIM realized that what must cause this effect is the residual air remaining in the lungs before the first inhalation of nitrous takes place. SWIM looked this number up to be ~1.2L of gas in an average adult male. So, this is the dilution factor each time the balloon comes up for another "hit."

Why this post, what value does it add? Well, partly, SWIM was bored and wanted to think through why things acted the way they did. But the practical value is this: If a SWIMmer were to clear their lungs as completely as possible before each round of inhalations, and exhale fully at the end, it is very reasonable for one to get multiple balloons worth of effect off of one balloon.
Additionally, the number of "in and out" breaths taken per cycle (A cycle being considered the time when a SWIMmer is breathing only balloon air, and no room air) would have no effect on the total levels of nitrous in the balloon, and therefore would not reduce efficiency of the nitrous process.
Finally, larger balloons would have more "buffer capacity" against diluting past the critical point where nitrous levels in the blood would fall (SWIM believes there is a certain percentage where not as much will enter the bloodstream, but according to SWIM's understanding of gasses and diffusion, until that level is reached, the total effect would be the same, regardless if it were 90% N2O or 70% N2O).

This leads to the most efficient (or, most bang for SWIyour buck) way to enjoy nitrous: Use large balloons, exhale fully before taking the nitrous in, and take as many re-breaths per cycle as possible without passing out (because then, SWIY will let go of the balloon and lose all of the still-valuable product).

SWIM is curious of other opinions on the scientific theory behind this, or arguments for why things would work differently.
  #2  
Old 07-10-2011, 07:48
psyche psyche is offline
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Re: A treatice on re-breathing.

As far as I'm aware, N2O is not metabolised, but is fully disposed of through respiration. The reason why rebreathing won't work forever is simple: tolerance. A drugs effects are largely due to the change in neurochemistry from a baseline to the altered state, not so much due to the altered neurochemical state itself. What would be an altered state if not a contrast (to a supposedly more normal state)?

Recycling for another person, though, should be somewhat effective. But levels of CO2 rise probably dramatically as air/CO2/N2O is recycled, so the ratio wont probably hold up. Furthermore the N2O is distributed between 5l of blood, lungs, and eventually body fat(I believe N2O is fat-soluble).
  #3  
Old 07-10-2011, 17:04
Paradox Paradox is offline
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Re: A treatice on re-breathing.

Ehh, tolerance generally is a result of upregulation/downregulation of gene expression. This generally takes time, unless the drug directly depletes a neurotransmitter. If this were the mechanism, a second fresh balloon would have no greater effect than the recycled balloon.

As for CO2, the concentration of CO2 in the balloon can't rise above the concentration of CO2 in the blood. That's just kinetics and diffusion.

Obviously in the real world, nothing is 100% efficient, so there will be some leakage from the system, but the only thing that matters for how far each breath "goes" is the concentration of N2O relative to other gasses in the mix. SWIM still believes this would only significantly change each time the residual air of the lungs is added to the balloon.
  #4  
Old 08-10-2011, 10:32
psyche psyche is offline
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Re: A treatice on re-breathing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paradox View Post
Ehh, tolerance generally is a result of upregulation/downregulation of gene expression. This generally takes time, unless the drug directly depletes a neurotransmitter. If this were the mechanism, a second fresh balloon would have no greater effect than the recycled balloon.

As for CO2, the concentration of CO2 in the balloon can't rise above the concentration of CO2 in the blood. That's just kinetics and diffusion.

Obviously in the real world, nothing is 100% efficient, so there will be some leakage from the system, but the only thing that matters for how far each breath "goes" is the concentration of N2O relative to other gasses in the mix. SWIM still believes this would only significantly change each time the residual air of the lungs is added to the balloon.
Physical tolerance is just that, but how about mental tolerance? People react differently to substances and notice different aspects. Couldn't one person react differently to a drug if they overused it? Just a thought. Ofcourse for any smart user(effect-wise), psychological tolerance would be minimal.

I wasn't saying CO2 levels would rise above the levels of CO2 in blood, I was saying maybe the CO2 levels rise because more is generated within the body. But seeing the CO2 levels needed for unconsciousness are 11-20%, there will be a lot of N2O in the balloon in any case.

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co2, n2o, nitrous, nitrous oxide, smoking

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