Drugs and drowning
Like alcohol, medication and illegal drugs can both increase the risk of drowning by causing drowsiness, impacting alertness and impairing judgement and the perception of risk.

Using drugs while in and around water is dangerous as it can increase the risk of drowning. This includes both illegal drugs and prescription medication.

Medication and drugs can cause drowsiness and impact a person’s alertness. They can impair judgment and distort the perception of risk. Some medications or illegal substances can also reduce the success of first aid and resuscitation.

Drowning deaths involving medication and drugs occur in all locations, with rivers being the most common location. Rivers are often in rural and remote locations, so it can often take longer to raise the alarm and get help if something goes wrong. Royal Life Saving recommends staying out of the water if alcohol or drugs are being used.

Drowning deaths involving medication and drugs
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Of drowning deaths each year involve drugs
Of drowning deaths occur in rivers/creeks
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Swimming and recreating was the most common activity prior to drowning
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Unintentional fall into water was the second-most common activity prior to drowning

How to stay safe

Drinking alcohol and taking drugs in, on or around water increase the risks of drowning. This can impact alertness and adversely affect your judgement. In addition, alcohol and drugs in your system reduce coordination and reaction time. If you have drunk alcohol or taken any drugs, avoid aquatic activity at night.

If you are taking prescribed medicines:

  • Consult your doctor before participating in aquatic activities to make sure it is safe to do so. Ask your doctor about what precautions you can take to swim and recreate in, on or around water safely.
  • Remember to take the prescription as directed by your doctor
  • Be aware of the side effects of any medication you are taking
  • Be aware that any medication that you are taking might affect your ability to supervise others around the water
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