What is Carbogen?

K.C. Bruning

Carbogen is a gas composed of carbon dioxide and oxygen. It is also known as Meduna’s Mixture, in reference to the inventor of the gas, Ladislas Meduna. Carbogen was first composed of 70 percent oxygen and 30 percent carbon dioxide. The percentage of each gas in the mixture is now more widely varied.

Carbogen is a gas made up of carbon dioxide and oxygen.
Carbogen is a gas made up of carbon dioxide and oxygen.

Inhalation of the gas gives the individual a feeling of losing control of breathing and not being able to take in oxygen. It is inhaled via a mask attached to the face, with a tube leading to a cylinder of the gas. The gas was traditionally used to help a doctor to determine how well a patient manages loss of control and, thus, could handle certain kinds of psychotherapeutic drugs.

At one time, carbogen was used in psychedelic psychotherapy.
At one time, carbogen was used in psychedelic psychotherapy.

The two gases in carbogen provide a contradictory effect on the body. A rise in the level of carbon dioxide usually means that oxygen levels have decreased. This causes an increased heart rate, the release of cells to remove the carbon and faster and deeper breathing. The additional oxygen makes up for the deficit the body has mistakenly registered, however.

Used in medical treatments, carbogen is linked to an increased sense of well-being, expanded consciousness and even vivid visual hallucinations.
Used in medical treatments, carbogen is linked to an increased sense of well-being, expanded consciousness and even vivid visual hallucinations.

Carbogen inhalation can cause a variety of effects depending on patient reaction. Some individuals only experience panic and feel that they are dying of suffocation. In some instances, the anxiety can be so intense that a patient will not be able to progress beyond inhaling the gas a few times. Other individuals have reported an increased sense of well-being, expanded consciousness and even vivid visual hallucinations. Some other patients have reported experiencing the panic and euphoria in equal measure or feeling peaceful after early sensations of panic and anxiety.

Some theorize that carbogen may increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy on cancerous tumors.
Some theorize that carbogen may increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy on cancerous tumors.

Meduna pioneered the use of carbogen in psychedelic psychotherapy and psychology. In addition to determining the safety of additional drug therapy, inhalation of the gas could also provide a state of altered consciousness that was useful in itself. The process reportedly enabled some patients to deal with issues blocking the mind such as repressed memories. Therapeutic use of carbogen declined along with interest in psychotherapeutics.

Carbogen has been used to deal with repressed memories.
Carbogen has been used to deal with repressed memories.

Carbogen is now more commonly used for physical medical treatments. Inhalation can be useful in the early stages of central retinal artery occlusion. It has also been suggested that, used with nicotinamide and radiation therapy, the gas could help to treat some kinds of cancer. This is because high levels of oxygen applied to tumors can boost the effects of radiation in killing cancerous cells.

A rise in the level of carbon dioxide leads to deeper breathing.
A rise in the level of carbon dioxide leads to deeper breathing.

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