It is well known that many divers are using cannabis between dives. Today’s guidelines are out of date. Currently, there is no distinction between alcohol and cannabis despite working on different mechanisms.
Diving is done using the buddy system,operating together as a single unit to monitor and help each other. In order to protect your partner, it is paramount to ensure your own safety while diving.
It is thought that the psychoactive effects of cannabis being the main acute safety concern during diving. There are also potential benefits to cannabinoid use around dives.
While being a potent bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory agent, CDB is not intoxicating. There is little research about what other physiological effects CBD would have on a diver’s body at pressure. This raises the question regarding effects of non-intoxicating cannabinoids prior to a dive.
Nitrogen narcosis can occur diving at deep depths. Certain gasses at high pressure cause an altered diver’s consciousness leading to poor judgment, panic, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, hallucinations or feelings of elation and euphoria. Narcosis increases the risk of dive errors; forgetting to check air supply, depth or neglecting dive buddy.
Breathing compressed air greater than atmospheric pressure increases the partial pressures of atmospheric gases, in the blood. Excess Nitrogen dissolved in the lipid bilayer of cell membranes causes narcosis. The effect of narcosis on the body takes place in the central nervous system.
Cannabinoids have been shown to protect nerve cells against damage by mediated cannabinoid receptor interaction. Cannabis users have higher cerebral blood flow and extract more oxygen from brain blood flow. Research is yet to understand how this mechanism works at depth and how it may affect nitrogen narcosis.
Central Nervous System
The central nervous system controls general homeostasis and metabolic functions. Endocannabinoid receptors located in the central nervous system finetune appetite, mood, respiration, brain function and reproduction.
There are over 150 Cannabinoids and countless Terpenes in cannabis . Each compound interacts with the cannabinoid receptors within the Endocannabinoid System.
Cannabinoids impact the lungs via CB1 and CB2 receptors located in respiratory tissue.
In addition to dose-dependent blood pressure, pulse and respiratory rate reduction; cannabinoid stimulation can increase cerebral blood flow during an induced ischemia and act as a neuroprotective at atmospheric pressure.
Normal breathing involves an exchange between oxygen into the lungs and carbon dioxide out. Hyperventilation causes an imbalance in the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Low CO2 levels causes narrowing of the blood vessels to the brain responsible for the symptoms of hyperventilation. A higher CO2 tolerance will equate to a more regulated breathing pattern, conversely, A low CO2 set point will stimulate you to over breath while diving.
CO2 in the blood plays an important role in buffering hydrogen ions and lactic acid production.
Altering CO2 sensitivity during specific tasks can increase performance and reduce lactic acid production.
Cannabis derived products are effective at treating chronic pain and calming muscle spasms .Cannabis is an anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-reliever) with various terpenes that interact with the endocannabinoid system to influence how pain is interpreted. Post diving consumption can alleviate fatigue.
The relationship between cannabis and anxiety is complicated and mostly dose dependent, at lower doses, cannabis seems to reduce anxiety; at higher doses, it seems to worsen it.
Terpenes interact with cannabinoids and alter their function. Linalool commonly found in lavender enhances relaxation properties of cannabis.
Cannabis can reduce anxiety allowing for slower more conserved oxigen.
Cannabis has been scientifically proven to be performance enhancing during freediving. The physco-tropic effects alter the bronchial sacs in the lungs allowing for a slower absorption of oxygen into the blood. This effect is also enhanced due to the pressures of diving. However, the effect diminishes proportionally with the amount of cannabis consumption.
THC is a bronchoconstrictor CBD is a bronchodilator. Cannabis is composed of many Compounds which may be helpful to divers.
While inhaling burning material into your lungs is generally bad for you, cannabis can be ingested by other means. Individual abilities to function under the influence of mood altering agents vary widely.
The diving community is quick to dismiss cannabis. due to its reputation without fully understanding the pharmacology of these compounds under pressure.