Don't Drink and Dive

Alcohol, drugs and diving – Don’t be a statistic.

Scuba diving requires information processing, recall, reasoning, decision making, attention and ability to take control of a situation. Please learn about the effects of alcohol and drugs to help keep you safe above and below the water. 

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Divers are urged not to drink and dive as part of this campaign from Northumbria Police encouraging safe diving.

Northumbria Police's Marine Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) launched the campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of the effects alcohol, drugs and even smoking can have on scuba divers.

The campaign is in conjunction with and supports the Royal National Lifeboat Institute's (RNLI) national drowning prevention campaign 'Respect the Water'.

Officers from the Marine NPT visit diving schools in the area to speak to divers and let them know the physiological effects substance use can have - not just when they are diving but in the lead up to their dive too.

Marine Officer, PC Paul Cullen, said: "The North East of England is home to some of the best dive sites around the country and we want people to have a good time out on dives. What we don't want is for them to have their dive ruined by getting into difficulty because they are suffering physically or psychologically after drinking alcohol or taking drugs, or even smoking.

"Divers will know scuba diving requires information processing, recall, reasoning, decision making, attention and ability to take control of a situation and alcohol, drugs and smoking can have a massive impact on this and the consequences of not taking responsibility for avoiding the hazards could potentially be life-threatening.

"We recognise most divers are unlikely to dive straight after drinking alcohol but if they have had a lot to drink the night before they could still be affected the next day and if they are hungover the dangers still exist.

"Looking after your health and recognising it in your dive buddy is essential for safe and enjoyable diving."

In the UK alcohol is involved in 33% to 66% swimming and boating accidents.

PC Cullen added: "Alcohol and hangovers can impair cardiac function and cognitive ability as well as reaction times and judgement. It can also cause dehydration which increases the risk of decompression illness."

Some of the dangers of alcohol and drugs affecting diving include:

- Dehydration increases risk in decompression illness (DCI) can lead to muscle cramps, dizziness and fainting

- Impaired judgement and problem solving ability

- Increase in susceptibility to hypothermia underwater

- Increased heart rate

- Decreased co-ordination

- Panic attacks

- Distortion of colour and changes in sense of time and movement

- Light-headedness

- Depressed respiratory function

- Decreased mental acuity

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How alcohol can affect diving

• Alcohol impairs cardiac function
and cognitive ability, affects reaction
times, judgement and increases
heat loss.

• Visual function is also affected.

• Hangovers affect cognitive
performance in addition to more
obvious signs such as headache
and nausea.


•Most of the emphasis regarding
the effects of alcohol on diving
is placed on dehydration and the
increase in risk of decompression
illness (DCI).

• When you are dehydrated this
leads to muscle cramps,
dizziness and fainting.

• In the UK 33 to 66% of drownings
in swimming and boating
accidents involve alcohol.


Don’t do drugs and dive

Do you know how an illegal drug may interact with you in the diving environment and how it can affect you physically or psychologically?


• Amphetamine – May affect
judgment and problem solving
ability and increase hypothermia
susceptibility underwater.

• Cocaine – Increased heart rate
and body temperature, euphoria,
sensitivity to light, nausea and

• Ecstasy – May impair judgement
and ability to respond while

• LSD – Changes in perception
and mood, decreased coordination,
panic attacks,
increased heart rate and loss of
personal boundaries.

• Magic Mushrooms – Increased
confidence, distortion of colour
and changes in sense of time
and movement.

• Opiates – depression, light
headedness, reduced respiratory,
dizziness, euphoria and mental

• Depressives , Sedatives and
Hypnotics – euphoria, depressed
respiratory function and
decreased mental acuity.


Normal, well-functioning lungs are essential for safe diving to minimise your chances of pulmonary barotrauma (burst lungs). The simple advice is STOP SMOKING. If you have suffered ill health and smoking has been implicated as a factor there is very little chance you will be found fit to dive unless you have stopped smoking.



You are here to dive and have a good time, please follow
the safety advice given as it’s also your dive team you
are responsible for as well as yourself. If you require
any further information please contact the following:

To speak to Northumbria Police's Marine Neighbourhood Policing Team ring Northumbria Police on 101

Follow the team on twitter: @NPMarineUnit

More information can be found by visiting the DDRC Healthcare website
DDRC Healthcare is a UK registered charity specialising in diving and hyperbaric medicine.