Alcohol continues to be a significant contributing factor in drowning and aquatic-related injury. One in every five drowning deaths among people aged 15 years and over recorded a BAC greater than or equal to 0.05%. Alcohol consumption impairs cognitive function, decision making, risk perception and reaction time, all of which may increase the risk of drowning. Alcohol-related drowning deaths occur across the adult lifespan, in urban and regional areas, and among both men and women. The National Drug Strategy Household Survey found swimming to be the second most likely risky activity undertaken while under the influence of alcohol. Exceeded only by the likelihood of driving a motor vehicle, this survey highlights how common it is to participate in aquatic activities following the consumption of alcohol.
Illicit drug use is also a risk factor for drowning. Illegal substances can numb the senses, reduce inhibitions and distort the perception of risk. The most common illicit drugs involved in drowning deaths are cannabis and methamphetamine. It is important to note that legal drugs, such as prescription and over the counter medicines, can also increase the risk of drowning, however, this focus area will concentrate on illegal drugs.