Hamilton Morris experiences the psychoactive effects of xenon gas

Originally published at: Hamilton Morris experiences the psychoactive effects of xenon gas | Boing Boing


Is he certain the effect is not simply hypoxia? Xenon does not interact with much, and is pretty unlikely to have a receptor in the CNS. For most of us we don’t notice hypoxia so long as the CO2 does not rise, we just get goofy.


Xenon’s a noble gas. As far as I know, it only chemically interacts with anything at all under extreme conditions, thousands of atm of pressure and hundreds of K in temperature.


yes indeed, one of only two elements known to be human mood alterers, (excluded several which ‘alter mood’ by tending to shut down all bodily functions). amazing to a biochem nerd that an element can bind to so many interesting receptors, but there it is (e.g. NMDA, TASK, TREK, ATPase, serotonin …the list is slowly expanding). In the immortal words of Bender: Neat (oh, in case you hadn’t trivially guessed: Lithium)


How does Xenon bind to anything in biological conditions?

I’m genuinely curious btw.


There are quite a number of good protein structures in the PDB (protein database) with Xenon atoms parked neatly among alpha helix bundles (several ion pores included). uhm… how about google image on the matter …? (“hiss boo! google images suck!” yeah but what can ya do?)


A noble gas like xenon doesn’t form a strong chemical bond with much of anything, but it does fit nicely into some of the neural receptors and so trigger the psychoactive response. Then the gas moves on and eventually works its way out of the body, but along the way can bind and release multiple receptors. At $10/liter, considering it is not consumed in the process, it isn’t terribly expensive, but considering the asphyxiation hazard I would suggest avoiding experimenting with it without proper medical supervision.


This would be a lot safer if it was administered via an oxygen blender and an overpressure pop off of some sort.

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It’s well documented, if it wasn’t so expensive, it would be a commonly used anesthetic.


Not high pressure, but arguably extreme,

The episode of Pharmacopeia is… uncomfortable to watch. Even in a show that is often uncomfortable to watch.

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A long ago work project had us use Xenon gas. Supporting us was a brilliant ultra-nerdy metrology tech who used the gas to periodically calibrate one of our measurement instruments, so he had ready access to several large bottles to draw from. Very expensive stuff! Anyway, a couple of times we caught him sucking on his supply to demonstrate how it would further lower his already deep voice. Damn! It was funny… but expensive!


Depends a lot on the level of purity. Back in the 90s, our Xenon was reported to be something near $30/liter. (And our test use costs amounted to mid-high four figures per hour… and each test ran for days.) Along with purity, the price may also have had something to do with being forced to buy from an approved supplier (???) perhaps the same one who provided Xenon for use on the ISS.


Huh. TIL


Xenon is a well known anesthetic. Not usually used because it is too expensive, but it will definitely sedate you even without hypoxia. The mechanisms aren’t exactly know, but the effect is probably not tremendously different from any other inhaled anesthetic, although it probably has an addtional psychosomatic component from knowingly inhaling a noble gas that starts with X which sounds pretty exotic.

Eta: other common inhaled anaesthic agents such as nitrous are not inert like xenon but they are also not significantly metabolized in the body. Their uptake and removal rates are diffusion driven. That’s part of why they are so safe and effective. There are no long lived or toxic metabolic products and it can quickly be modulated or reversed just by stopping administration and the agent will be breathed out in a matter of minutes.


TIL. Weird, but so is the human body.

ETA talked to my niece, who is a nurse anesthetist. She confirmed it is being taught as something that is coming, but not yet used. There is apparently a drawback she couldn’t remember, but yeah, there you have it.

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