Many mountaineers use medications to improve performance and increase
their likelihood of success in high-altitude climbing. The use of performance enhancing medicines remains a
A new study that asked climbers of Mount
Everest their opinions and assessed their use of medications and oxygen
provides new insights in an article published in High Altitude Medicine & Biology.
‘Drug use by mountaineers is mostly and appropriately for altitude illness prophylaxis and sleep quality, and not for performance enhancement or recreational pleasure.’
The article "Medication Use Among Mount Everest Climbers: Practice and Attitudes"
is coauthored by Andrew Luks, University of Washington, Seattle,
Colin Grissom, Intermountain Medical Center and the University of
Utah, Salt Lake City, Luanne Freer, Yellowstone National Park,
Bozeman, MT and Himalayan Rescue Association Everest Base Camp Medical
Clinic, Nepal, and Peter Hackett, University of Colorado, Denver,
and Institute for Altitude Medicine, Telluride, CO.
The researchers report that less than half of the climbers surveyed
reported using medications on climbs. The most commonly used medication
was acetazolamide to prevent altitude sickness.
"This article by Luks et al. and another recent article by a group
on Mt Blanc in the French Alps, in which drug levels were measured in
urine collected from a common toilet used by many climbers on the way to
the summit, give independent and confirmatory data that drug use by
mountaineers is mostly and appropriately for altitude illness
prophylaxis and sleep quality, and not for performance enhancement or
recreational pleasure," says Erik R. Swenson, Editor-in-Chief of High Altitude Medicine & Biology
and Professor, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine,
Veterans Administration Puget Sound Healthcare System. "Rumors of
rampant drug abuse appear to be disproven."