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Drinking and Diving, A Molotov Cocktail

Drinking and diving - Principal

Drinking and diving is a Molotov cocktail, a bomb in a bottle. It’s gasoline on the fire. But, don’t worry. This article is not a moral dissertation about how bad alcohol is. It is an objective review of the effects alcohol has on the human body and what happens when, in addition, your body is subject to increased pressure.

You are on vacation in Cozumel enjoying diving, relaxation, warmth, the good ambiance, Caribbean rhythms, and friends… Who has not drunk a beer or a couple of margaritas after diving sometime? Whoever is without sin cast the first stone.

They have even offered me a drink between dives. Has it happened to you? The problem is, according to Divers Alert Network (DAN), that “alcohol and diving are not compatible”.

Why? We are wondering. These are the reasons.

 Do Drinking and Diving Have Any Effect on The Central Nervous System?

Of course, they do. Actually, the question is not if there is any effect of drinking and diving on the central nervous system. The question is which ones?

Let’s analyze them from the mildest to the most severe. It is important to say that everyone responds differently to alcohol depending on factors such as weight, sex, age, race, whether the person is fasting, etc.

1. Drinking and diving: phase 1 euphoria and excitement. Alcohol affects emotions and produces talkativeness, euphoria, disinhibition, and impulsive behavior. It is the reason why many young men need to drink before talking to a girl. What is really happening is alcohol affects the cingulate cortex. It is the part of the brain involved in decision-making, empathy, and emotions. A beer is enough for that.

It is a drawback to drink alcohol before scuba diving and having an impulsive and unreflective awareness. You need to use common sense to dive, make numerous checks during the dive, and be methodical. To be deficient in the execution of a scuba dive entails great risk.

2. Drinking and scuba diving: phase 2 intoxication.
After two glasses of wine, two beers, or a shot of tequila, you enter the intoxication phase. At this moment, the neurotransmitters of the brain are altered.

Among the effects, we see a decrease in alertness and the ability to concentrate. Reflexes slow down, affect vision, as well as movements coordination, motor functions, and even memory are impaired.

As divers, we know that proper judgment skills at depth are necessary. We also know that pressure and breathing compressed inert gases affect our bodies. Alcohol increases this. It happens with respect to nitrogen narcosis.

Alcohol and nitrogen both can function as nervous system depressants. That is, to sedate it. The symptoms of nitrogen narcosis are very similar to those caused by alcohol.

– Mental confusion.

– Delayed reaction time.

– Impaired judgment.

– Fixation of ideas.

– Hallucinations.

– Loss of memory.

– Unconsciousness.

The relationship between depth and narcosis is informally known as the “Law of Martinis”: It is something like drinking one Martini cocktail for every 10 m of depth. Deep diver cocktail feelings get worse drinking alcohol before diving (although there are no studies about how much).

Drinking and diving - picture

3. Drinking and diving: phase 3 confusion. Irritability, agitation, drowsiness, headache, loss of the ability to articulate words normally, nausea and vomiting. Up to this point, a diver who has been drinking before diving may have masked its effects. But from stage three onwards it is impossible. If this were the case, the dive buddy would have to refuse to dive with the person, and the dive center would have the power to prevent him or her from doing so.

Diving drunk at this level puts the diver and the entire group at risk.

4. Drinking and diving: phase 4 boat hangover
. Headache, sensitivity to light and sound, depression, anxiety, and irritability are the nervous system-related symptoms of a good hangover. Not to mention nausea, fatigue, and tachycardia.

As a general rule, the more alcohol consumed, the stronger the hangover. However, a small amount of alcohol can also cause a hangover.

You may be able to cruise up and down Vegas with a hangover, but I’m sure that riding on a boat after being drunk will be a nasty way to feed the fish.


What Are the Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Diving on The Circulatory System?

1. Alcohol increases cardiac activity. A higher heart rate requires a higher expenditure of energy. The more energy the body needs, the more air you consume. Therefore, a boozy diver uses cylinder air faster than his dive buddy.

It is a minor risk compared to overexertion of the heart, which can lead to a collapse in people with underlying heart disease.

2. Drinking before diving causes peripheral vasodilation.
As divers know, our body loses heat 25 times faster in water than in air, so when we dive, blood is drawn away from the skin to concentrate on vital organs. But drinking before diving will make your blood vessels open up more. At first, you’re going to feel a nice warm sensation, but what’s happening is that the blood that should be in the center of your body to keep warm is now in the skin, cooling down.

The aggravating factor is that alcohol delays the shivering response that would make us realize that we are suffering from hypothermia.

Drinking and diving - juice

Drinking and Scuba Diving Effects on Other Organs

–  Alcohol increases the stomach production of gastric acid, which causes irritation and inflammation and can lead to vomiting. This can asphyxiate you while diving.

It alters kidney function because antidiuretic hormone levels are reduced. It increases the desire to urinate. If, as we already shared in the article Truths and Lies About Peeing in Wetsuit, diving alone increases the need to urinate, alcohol worsens the symptoms. It forces the body to deplete water from other organs such as the brain.

The liver is the organ in charge of detoxifying your body of alcohol. If your liver enzymes are busy metabolizing it, they don´t do their primary function: converting glycogen stores into glucose and releasing it into the bloodstream. Recall that glucose is the body’s fuel. So, a drunk diver may not be able to cope with the physical effort needed to face an unexpected situation underwater.

Drinking And Scuba Diving Increase Decompression Sickness Risk

In short, alcohol causes dehydration, hypertension, multiplies peripheral blood flow, and hypothermia risk. All these phenomena can upsurge both the retention of nitrogen inside the body during the dive and slow down its elimination during the ascent.

Scuba Diving and Drinking Alcohol: DAN’S Data

According to the data collected by DAN, 50% of all diving accidents in over-aged persons were related to drinking and diving.

MW Perrine’s study of the impact of alcohol on experienced divers revealed that their scuba performance was significantly worse at a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 (2 x 12 oz. beers/ 33cl). In addition, even with less alcohol drunk; situational awareness, inhibition of protective reflexes, and problem-solving ability were lower.

Tips For Managing Alcohol Use Before and After a Dive

Alcohol takes 24 hours to metabolize, do not drink 24 hours before a dive.

If you consume alcohol 8 hours before a dive, limit yourself to 1 beer. Skip the dive if you have any hangover symptoms.

Drink plenty of water before the dive to make sure you stay hydrated,

Do not drink the post-dive beer if you are going to dive the next morning. If that’s not the case, delay drinking alcohol for at least one hour after diving.

Everything we’ve told you about drinking and diving can be summed up in the title of Steve Wonder’s song “Don’t drive drunk” with a few minor modifications. As the singer would say: “If you drink, don’t dive”.

Don’t dive drunk (don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t)

Don’t dive drunk (don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t)

Don’t dive drunk (don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t)

Mothers against drunk divers are mad.


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