A blurry scuba diver underwater. Scuba diving and alcohol is a dangerous combination.
A concoction of scuba diving and alcohol can lead to dangerous consequences. Photo Chris King / Unsplash

Scuba diving and drinking alcohol is a no-no. But why and what are the risks involved? And can you drink alcohol after a dive?

Scuba Diving and Drinking Alcohol

It is well-known that alcohol affects us. Sometimes positively, and sometimes negatively. It can affect our bodies, emotions, and the way we think. This can lead to severe consequences when mixed with an activity such as scuba diving that requires following rules and problem-solving.

Alcohol can make us feel overly confident which may lead us to take more risks underwater. You might also ignore your no-decompression limits, depth limits, or even air limits.

Read More: What Should Divers Do For Their Own Safety?

Decompression Sickness Alcohol

Decompression sickness is a very real risk for scuba divers, and this risk is intensified when mixed with alcohol. Drinking alcohol leads to very quick dehydration and dehydration is one of the main factors for decompression sickness.

Drinking alcohol straight after a dive can also affect how our bodies eliminate the absorbed nitrogen from a dive. Which, in turn, can lead to decompression sickness. The alcohol dehydrates our body and lowers the volume of blood in circulation. This causes the heart rate to increase while pumping the blood. This blood is saturated with nitrogen from the dive and because it is pumping at a faster rate, it can increase the risk of the nitrogen forming tiny bubbles.

Alcohol Before Scuba Diving

It is recommended that you leave at least 12 hours between your last drink and your first dive. This is because alcohol leaves your bloodstream slowly and the effects of alcohol may still be present the following day. The usual alcohol effects include loss of concentration, impaired judgment, reaction time and ability to solve problems on-land. Imagine how much worse it would be underwater!

Can You Go Drinking After A Dive?

It is very common to see dive professionals decompress with a beer after a dive. The majority of new divers are diving on their holidays, which also means a few cocktails after a day of diving. So, is it safe to go drinking after a dive?

In theory, yes. You can dive then drink. However, you should leave a few hours in between to allow the absorbed nitrogen to be eliminated from your body efficiently. You should also be aware that diving can cause you to feel dehydrated, and alcohol can make this worse. That dehydration can increase your risk of decompression sickness.

The best thing to do is to give it around 4 hours before you have a few drinks or moderate your drinking to one drink after a dive.

Scuba Diving with a Hangover

Scuba diving with a hangover is not recommended. I can tell you this from experience. An experience that I have done once, and never again.

Alcohol increases the production of stomach acid and can cause you stomach pains, nausea, and vomiting the following day during a hangover. Being underwater while in such pain is not fun. You will also most likely feel a headache, weakness, shakiness, fatigue, or worse, during a bad hangover. Being on a rocky boat or on the surface with waves will heighten your dizziness too.

The best thing with a hangover is to stay curled up in bed and leave the diving for the following day!

Emma was terrified of the ocean but dove into her Open Water 7 years ago and hasn't looked back since! She worked as an underwater videographer for several years and is now a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer. She currently runs a dive shop on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand and is the founder of Down To Scuba.

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