Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Common Motion Sickness Drug Could Impair Divers' Judgment

WebMD Health News

Sept. 20, 2000 -- Scuba diving can be an intoxicating experience. But scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have found that a common seasickness medication, Dramamine, taken just before a dive could produce the mental equivalent of "one too many," possibly impairing judgment and raising the risk of an accident. A second study by the same team, however, shows that pseudoephedrine, a drug found in many sinus medications such as Sudafed, has only modest effects on brain function and is probably safe for divers. Both studies appear in this month's issue of the journal Pharmacotherapy.

Scuba divers are particularly vulnerable to the mind-altering effects of certain drugs because of the way air is delivered from the tank. Nitrogen makes up about three-quarters of the air we breathe. When compressed into a scuba tank and inhaled under the high pressures encountered at depths of 33 feet or more, it can have a disorienting effect -- kind of like taking a few drinks. Indeed, Kevin O'Toole, MD, one of the study authors, tells WebMD that every 33 feet a diver descends is the equivalent of drinking one martini in its effect on the brain. Scientists call this condition "nitrogen narcosis," but divers know it by a more poetic name -- "rapture of the deep."

To study the effects of two popular, over-the-counter drugs when combined with nitrogen narcosis, the scientists placed 30 experienced scuba divers in a hyperbaric chamber that simulated the pressure of a 66-foot dive (two martinis). While in the tank, the divers breathed the same type of compressed air they would have in a scuba tank.

Forty-five minutes before going on the "dive," each subject took a pill containing pseudoephedrine, a decongestant many divers take to relieve pressure in the sinuses or middle ear; dimenhydrinate, the active ingredient in most anti-seasickness products such as Dramamine; or a dummy pill. The experiments were designed so that each person was tested with each drug.

The investigators chose these drugs because they are popular among scuba divers, and because each has been associated with side effects that could distort a diver's judgment, especially when combined with nitrogen narcosis. Pseudoephedrine has been linked with nervousness, excitability, and restlessness and may also cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Dimenhydrinate can make people extremely dizzy or drowsy.

1 | 2 | 3

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing