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Journal Article

Citation

Robach P, Trebes G, Lasne F, Buisson C, Méchin N, Mazzarino M, de la Torre X, Roustit M, Kérivel P, Botrè F, Bouzat P. PLoS One 2016; 11(6): e0156786.

Affiliation

Institut des Neurosciences, INSERM U836, Université Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France.

Copyright

(Copyright © 2016, Public Library of Science)

DOI

10.1371/journal.pone.0156786

PMID

27253728

Abstract

Mont Blanc, the summit of Western Europe, is a popular but demanding high-altitude ascent. Drug use is thought to be widespread among climbers attempting this summit, not only to prevent altitude illnesses, but also to boost physical and/or psychological capacities. This practice may be unsafe in this remote alpine environment. However, robust data on medication during the ascent of Mont Blanc are lacking. Individual urine samples from male climbers using urinals in mountain refuges on access routes to Mont Blanc (Goûter and Cosmiques mountain huts) were blindly and anonymously collected using a hidden automatic sampler. Urine samples were screened for a wide range of drugs, including diuretics, glucocorticoids, stimulants, hypnotics and phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE-5) inhibitors. Out of 430 samples analyzed from both huts, 35.8% contained at least one drug. Diuretics (22.7%) and hypnotics (12.9%) were the most frequently detected drugs, while glucocorticoids (3.5%) and stimulants (3.1%) were less commonly detected. None of the samples contained PDE-5 inhibitors. Two substances were predominant: the diuretic acetazolamide (20.6%) and the hypnotic zolpidem (8.4%). Thirty three samples were found positive for at least two substances, the most frequent combination being acetazolamide and a hypnotic (2.1%). Based on a novel sampling technique, we demonstrate that about one third of the urine samples collected from a random sample of male climbers contained one or several drugs, suggesting frequent drug use amongst climbers ascending Mont Blanc. Our data suggest that medication primarily aims at mitigating the symptoms of altitude illnesses, rather than enhancing performance. In this hazardous environment, the relatively high prevalence of hypnotics must be highlighted, since these molecules may alter vigilance.


Language: en

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