That tropical dive-holiday brochure scene wouldn’t be complete without a chi-chi cocktail with a tortured pineapple slice clinging to the rim of the glass. But is opting for the liquid dinner really the safest option after a dive? To drink or not to drink? Finally, the experts answer the question:
DAN Diver Question: I often see divers gathering for a beer or two after a long day of diving, and some, let’s face it, drink more than just one or two! Are there any serious risks divers should take into account before heading off to join the night party at the bar?
DAN Answer: I have to admit that I do like to have a drink in the evening after a long hard day. Before any drinking, however, it is useful to weigh the risks both non-diving and for diving.
Binge drinking (or drinking heavily over a short time) is well known to cause nausea, vomiting, memory loss, unsteadiness and slowed reaction time, slurred speech, poor co-ordination, impaired judgement and of course the lack of inhibition. The person drinking may be unaware of their limitations. Severe alcohol intoxication or poisoning can be lethal. Drunken people are more accident-prone from falls and have a high incidence of assault and robbery, loss of property, motor vehicle accidents, etc. Alcohol is a depressant drug and these effects begin even after only one alcoholic drink.
To go diving after drinking alcohol is very risky, even the following day. It can take more than 12 hours for the blood alcohol to fall to normal. A hangover is disabling; headache and nausea increase risk of seasickness. Dizziness, poor co-ordination and judgement will impede physical and mental performance. Dehydration can be severe and increases the risk of decompression illness.
Nitrogen narcosis symptoms may be amplified and brought on at a shallower depth than normal. You not only put yourself at higher risk but also your buddy.
I recommend limiting your alcohol intake to no more than two standard drinks the night before a dive and retiring to bed at an early time. There should be no alcohol intake the day of diving until all dives have been completed. Before taking any alcohol ensure you have drunk plenty of water and are well hydrated. Be safe and sober.
Dr Parker is a diving physician and Senior Dive Medical Consultant for DAN AP.
Did You Know?
Most divers (possibly around 90%) who get DCI have been diving within the limits of their dive computer or tables. However, the risk of DCI increases when a diver exceeds these limits. This indicates that the limits cannot accurately account for individual differences between divers and the various factors that can influence nitrogen uptake and elimination during a dive. All divers should add conservatism to their decompression calculations.
Safety Tip: Enter DAN as a contact in your phone. DAN is available 24/7 365 days a year to assist all divers; however, DAN can only arrange an emergency evacuation and pay for treatment costs for a current DAN Member, within the limits of their coverage.