Medicine use in diving: what information is available?

Anya Palitsina, Medicines Information Pharmacist, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation TrustPublished
  • There are several sources of information on drugs and medical conditions that may affect a person’s ability to dive.
  • Professional divers are required by law to undergo a medical assessment by a clinician trained in diving medicine and approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
  • Recreational divers undergoing training run by organisations such as the Sub Aqua Club are also required to disclose certain medical conditions and undergo a medical examination if necessary.
  • Medical fitness to dive when using medication depends upon the type of diving, underlying pathology, effects of medication on fitness to dive and the consequences of its abrupt cessation during diving activities.
  • The underlying condition for which medication is being taken may be the most important consideration.
  • Certain drugs e.g. sedatives, anticoagulants, antidepressants, may not be compatible with diving or can restrict the type of diving the person can do.
  • Consideration should be given to the potential for unexpected side effects as a result of interaction with increased partial pressures of nitrogen. This may increase the drowsiness caused by many sedating medications.