The effects of alcohol or drugs on chances of survival at sea
Nov 04, 2022
1 min read
Gibraltar Maritime Administration has issued shipping guidance notice entitled "The effects of alcohol or drugs on chances of survival at sea", addressed to ship owners, operators, master’s, classification societies and recognised organisations.
The document has been published on October 20th, 2022.
This guidance note draws attention to the risks associated with the consumption of alcohol and the abuse of drugs in relation to the chances of survival at sea.
Recent incidents have highlighted the adverse effects of alcohol and drugs on the chances of survival at sea. These guidelines are intended to raise awareness of the increased risks.
Any alcohol may be dangerous, but the higher the resulting blood alcohol level, the greater the danger, particularly above 80 mg per 100 ml.
Abuse of all drugs should be considered to be detrimental to survival.
Danger of alcohol consumption
There is clear scientific evidence that even quite moderate alcohol consumption normally leads to a reduction in blood sugar, (hypoglycaemia) which is made worse by exercise and/or fasting.
In turn, this can impair the body’s response to cold, meaning that an individual loses body heat faster than usual and is at increased risk of hypothermia.
Danger of drug consumption
There is a large range of different types of drug that are known to be abused, which have widely varying effects on the body.
Certain drugs, in particular barbiturates, morphine and its relatives (including opium) are well known for increasing the risk of hypothermia.
Of greater concern, and particularly in relation to cannabis, ‘ecstasy’, and many other drugs, is the fact that they impair mental faculties that are so essential during immersion survival.
Perception and memory
It is also worth noting that alcohol and other drug abuse are likely to impair perception and memory, and thus prevent survivors from giving their rescuers an accurate account of events.