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Effects of Alcohol

The consumption of alcohol prior to aquatic activity has been shown to significantly increase the risk of drowning.

Alcohol affects everyone differently; therefore there is no amount of alcohol that can be said to be safe for everyone. Even small amounts of alcohol can impair you physically and behaviourally, increasing the risk of drowning. More than one third of people who drowned had a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.05mg/L or less. It just shows - you don’t have to drink much to drown.

Here are some of the effects of alcohol and how they affect your ability in the water:

  • Impairs Judgement – Alcohol distorts your perception of risk, and your own abilities
  • Increases Risk Taking Behaviour – Alcohol removes inhibitions, leaving you more likely to take greater risks and around water, these risks can cost you your life.
  • Reduces Coordination – Alcohol numbs the senses, particularly sight, sound and touch leading to unsteadiness and inability to climb or swim making it hard to get out of trouble
  • Impairs Reaction Time – Alcohol is a depressant, reducing the rate the brain processes information. In water emergencies where response times are vital, it can prove the difference between life and death.
  • Reduces the Effectiveness of CPR – Should you need resuscitation, alcohol reduces the likelihood that resuscitation methods will work
  • Disturbance of the Inner Ear – Fluid in the ear is responsible for balance. Alcohol and a sudden change in temperature, such as when entering the water, can lead to disorientation
  • Hypothermia – In cold situations, the body will attempt to draw blood away from the limbs and to the vital organs to prevent heat loss. Alcohol, however, prevents this and therefore increases the chance of hypothermia
  • Spasm of the Vocal Chords – Water in the windpipe triggers a reflex closure of the windpipe. Alcohol increases the chance that a spasm of the vocal chords will occur, snapping the airway shut and locking the airway closed