Does oxygen get you high?

Remember the part in Fight Club where Brad Pitt’s character explains that they have oxygen masks in airplanes because oxygen “gets you high” ?

Well… does it? What kind of high?
(Mods and others, I’m not looking for info on how to (illegally?*) get high off oxygen. Just looking for plot holes).

A quick Wikipedia search on oxygen bars implies that it is not illegal to consume oxygen.* The most popular flavors of oxygen are strawberry and chocolate!

**Well, when I put it like that…

It is not exactly an answer to your question, but I have occasionally breathed pure oxygen at time in diving.

For whatever that is worth, no, you do not get high on it. I’ve never noted any dizziness or anything else. It is really mundane as far as my experience.

But again, this is not exactly the same situation your OP posits.

I will say that under some circumstances, pure oxygen is a really, really, bad idea.

An interesting fact is that lack of oxygen gets you high.

Lack of oxygen (temporary and partial! Not total! Not total!) shows up in my practice in a couple of ways. One is autoerotic asphyxia. The idea of which is to half strangle yourself during masturbation at the moment you’re coming. The reason for which is it is said to be a harder ejaculation because of the oxygen deprivation. (Indirect oxygen deprivation – you’re not allowing quite enough oxygen to get to the brain through the carotid arteries. It’s got nothing to do with the trachea.)

The other is truly the Poor Man’s High, or used to be. Once when I worked in a Southern city the police discovered the body of a man in a tiny room behind his garage. He had evidently built the room in himself using the flimsiest of sheetrock. All there was in the room was an air mattress, a breathing tube, and a canister of Freon. (His dad worked in air conditioning repair.)

The way Freon gets you high is sheer and simple displacement of air from your lungs. It’s an inert and noble gas. It won’t interact with anything in your blood to turn you on. But temporary, partial hypoxia is experienced by many as a short-lived high.

This is also behind the “choking game” that has taken a number of teenagers’ lives recently. A friend of mine said that when she was ten or eleven, they played a simpler, less dangerous version of the game. The technique was to spin about until you were dizzy, then have another friend grab you around the chest from behind and squeeze. You’d half black out. Hypoxia and vertigo combined for a momentary high.

Ah, the eternal drive for intoxication. I was going to write “human drive” but remembered it’s not limited to our little branch of the mammalian tree…

Alcohol (in careful quantities) is safer. But at least I can state by others’ experience, not my own, that lack of oxygen gets you high; rather than oxygen.

This was done a little time ago, I’m trying to find it for you…

In the mean time, as the others have said, no it doesn’t get you high. And if you consider that the pilots have to breath oxygen in some emergency situations as well as the passengers, you’d see that the concept, as portrayed in Fight Club, is a bit silly.

Link to previous thread: Any truth to Air Companies wanting to ease your final moment?

Total and permanent lack-of-oxygen cases tend to go straight to the morgue.

This apparently isn’t correct, as addressed by rfgdxm in a previous thread.

Seeing that a lot of NFL players breath oxygen while sitting on the sidelines between plays would lead me to believe that it does not get you high.
I don’t think the coach would want “high” players tring to run a complex offense.

Jules Verne wrote a story in which a “mad scientist” suffuses a town with pure oxygen, and it does affect everyone – they feel more excited, more energetic. Maybe not “high”, but definitely they feel something. Like all of Verne’s stories, it’s almost certainly based on some scientific work, but I don’t know what work,. or how its veracity has fared since. The story, IIRC, is “Doctor Ox’s Experiment” (You can read “Ox” as short for “Oxygen”)

My own feeling is that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near this town. High oxygen content also tends to make things highly flammable, and makes them burn more intensely once lit.

Another problem with the aeroplane myth is that the oxygen given to passengers is a trickle flow designed to keep them conscious. It is no more concentrated than air at sea level.

If I might piggyback a question: what are the health effects of those oxygen bars, or breathing high concentrations of oxygen regularly?

I mean, obviously for patients in medical care, or for diving, there are some instances where a higher % of O2 is needed - the body can’t absorb it as quickly as it needs to, so we give it more to absorb per breath.

But doesn’t oxygen lead to…oxidation? What we take all those anti-oxidants to fight off? Could high levels of oxygen over a period of time lead to premature aging of cells?

Oxygen at too high a pressure can be very bad for you. It seems to mainly be an issue for divers who are breathing air at abnormal pressures, and possibly for long term intensive care patients who are on 100% oxygen for extended periods.

This link about oxygen toxicity should get you started.

And from Wikipedia.

It certainly does. In my younger days, when two litres were a regular fixture at late night RPG sessions, I found recently emptied bottles to be a source of great entertainment–just wrap your lips round the bottle and take a good deep breath of the CO2. Got me all sorts of lightheaded until I took a few breaths of proper air.

Thankfully for me and my neurons, I don’t have much truck with two litres any more, and the smaller twenty ounce bottles are a bit too rigid to take a good drag off of… :stuck_out_tongue:

Freon is fairly inert*, but it’s absolutely not a noble gas.

Freon is a trademark name for a class of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) compounds first marketed by Du Pont back in 1930. CFCs are composed of chlorine, fluorine, carbon, and hydrogen.

The noble gases are the elements in Group 18 of the periodic table: helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and radon.

*Freons were widely used in industry because they were so unreactive and inert at room-temperature conditions. Only later did people discover that they break down in the upper atmosphere, producing atomic chlorine, which catalyzes the destruction of the ozone layer.

Great Og! They don’t use pure oxygen on airplanes! Could you imagine the giant fireball in the sky if the plane were to catch fire and mix with the pure oxygen?


It’s just regular air. Just like in the airtanks firefighters use.

I’m fairly certain that you haven’t. Normal diving just involves ordinary, compressed air. Diving to depth you can use a mix, but it is not pure oxygen. Enriched oxygen, yes, or with a higher helium content. But not pure oxygen.

ValuJet Flight 592:

Apparently the O[sub]2[/sub] generators that contributed to the crash of flight 592 were not in service, but improperly stored in the forward cargo hold. However pure oxygen is generated by that face mask system. It may be mixed before reaching the passengers nose, I don’t know, but it starts out as pure oxygen.

It doesn’t get you high. However, if you are tired to the point of exhaustion, a hit or two of high percentage oxygen will perk you up a fair amount, and that might be construed by some as a high.

Could LiveOnAPlane have been referring to a decompression chamber, I wonder?

The “pure oxygen” environments I find reference to are:

  1. Early NASA programs (Gemini and Apollo), but these were under low pressure.
  2. Hyperbaric chambers (decompression chambers).
  3. Military rebreathers for SCUBA missions.

Any of those is possible, none is probable for an average person.

From HowStuffWorks: Is it harmful to breathe 100% Oxygen?

They do use pure oxygen. For the passengers it is mixed with ambient air. For the pilots it may be used at 100% or mixed with ambient air depending on the situation.

Note that this is for emergency depressurisation situations. For normal operations the cabin itself is pressurised with air.

Hm… as I suspected!
Thanks for the responses, everyone :slight_smile: