DAN Medical Frequently Asked Questions

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Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

My son has Attention Deficit Disorder. It is controlled without medication, but I'm still not sure diving is safe for him. What do you think?

This brain disorder, usually recognized early in life, is manifested by an inability to concentrate or sustain attention. It may or may not be accompanied by physical hyperactivity. ADD is a significant (but over-diagnosed) cause of learning disability. The problem usually improves with age.

Fitness & Diving

At its worst, ADD can be so pronounced as to prevent a prospective student from learning the simple skills necessary for safety. This could present a significant hazard in many areas, including both driving and scuba diving. ADD is usually not that intense, however. Fitness to dive can best be assessed by looking at social, school, athletic and job performance. Note that because some ADD patients take medications, they should consider the potential impact of medications while diving.

A case by case dive candidate review is necessary to determine if an individual has the necessary physical or mental abilities to handle the stresses of underwater activity. Additionally, scuba diving is a buddy activity that assumes a diver can perform buddy and self rescue in an emergency situation.

Medication Used in Treatment
No testing has ever been done to determine interactions between high partial pressures of nitrogen and the medications used to treat attention deficit disorder. Two drugs currently in use are Ritalin® (methphenidate) and Dexedrine® (dextroamphetamine). Both are heavy-duty stimulants that leave most adults "wired." However, they often have a calming and somewhat paradoxical effect on children with attention deficient disorder. This desirable effect is less apparent as children grow older.

For more information on conditions involving the central nervous system, see all of Dr. Hugh Greer's article from the May/June 1999 issue of Alert Diver.