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Is Your Pilot on Prozac?

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, April 02, 2010 12:39 PM EST
Category: On The Road
Tags: Airline Pilots, Airline Security, Prozac, SSRIs

Pilots will be allowed to take one of four SSRI antidepressants if they are monitored says the FAA.



IMAGE SOURCE: Pilot in cockpit, CNN Web site

Antidepressants On The Job

A new government rule scheduled to take effect Monday will allow airline pilots to stay on their Prozac.

The rule is intended to have pilots disclose their antidepressant treatment rather than keep it a secret as long as their drug use doesn’t “manifest themselves” at 35,000 feet.

The Federal Aviation Administration had banned the use of antidepressants in pilots for fear they would cause drowsiness and have other side effects.

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt told CNN, “We have people self medicating or not seeking treatment…We need to change the culture and remove the stigma associated with depression.”

There are no estimates on how many pilots may be on drug treatment for depression, but about 10 percent of the general population is under treatment for depression.

Changing the culture means that pilots taking SSRIs - Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa or Lexapro, or generic equivalents - can fly if they’ve been on the medication for a year and not suffered side effects. They can begin coming forward on Monday, the beginning of a six-month grace period.

Those pilots will be given a special medical certificate, reports the FAA in a press release.

For those pilots who have been on antidepressants to treat mild or moderate depression, but who have kept it a secret, the FAA will take no civil action against the pilots if they now disclose their drug use. The new rules are posted on the Federal Register.

Side Effects

The change in policy reflects a changing attitude toward SSRIs. While side effects can include seizures, eyesight problems, and suicidal thoughts, those side effects do not affect everyone.

Canadian pilots on antidepressants have been allowed to fly for some time. Labor unions and pilots had urged lifting the ban. The FAA’s new policy is consistent with recommendations from the Air Line Pilots Association, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and the Aerospace Medical Association.


Babbitt said the FAA began to deal with drug abuse and alcoholism in the cockpit with the establishment 40 years ago of its Human Intervention and Motivation Study (HIMS), a prototype alcohol and drug assistance program developed for commercial pilots.

Its premise is that alcoholism and chemical dependencies can be successfully treated medically. HIMS grew out of a grant in the 1970s that joined the Air Line Pilots Association with the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

It finds that peer identification and intervention are the key components to treatment. #


Anonymous User
Posted by Mark
Friday, April 02, 2010 5:02 PM EST

you only listed three serious side effects of Prozac, Zoloft, there are pages of them. The reason why the mentally unstable go over the edge and on postal rampages, why kids drop out of school and get addicted to hard street drugs, is BECAUSE they've been on psychotropic drugs like Prozac and Zoloft which is being pushed by the FDA, the psychiatric quack assocation and the parmaceutical giants. Now these criminal organizations want to endanger the travelling and flying public by drugging up the pilots. Flying has just become ten times more dangerous.

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, April 02, 2010 11:34 PM EST

You are absolutely right. Please visit the IB Help Page on antidepressants and psychiatric drugs.

Posted by Kevin P. Miller
Saturday, April 03, 2010 11:21 AM EST

Thanks to Jane for this report. Considering the security conscious era we live in, this is almost unfathomable. While I certainly support anyone's right to use these drugs, the violent thoughts and suicidal ideations which often accompany these drugs are REAL. What I learned while researching my film GENERATION RX was frightening; this report only adds to my fear for the unsuspecting public.

Posted by Jane Akre
Saturday, April 03, 2010 8:53 PM EST

Thanks Kevin-

Generation RX was ahead of its time and I urge everyone to see it. Find it online to order the DVD here:
Especially important for parents to see!

Anonymous User
Posted by Juliet Edmundson
Sunday, April 04, 2010 1:42 PM EST

Thanks for sharing the link Jane. Does anyone know how often pilots are drug tested? I have known several people in the airline industry and air marshall service who have told me horror stories about mechanics doing cocaine prior to working on the planes and pilots flying extended hours on drugs. I also know three former air marshalls who each were on 2-3 SSRIs, plus drank heavily, took testerone shots, popped narcotics to stay awake, and then loaded their gun and boarded a plane. Scary to say the least.

Anonymous User
Posted by Joe dupont
Monday, April 05, 2010 3:01 PM EST

Just look up prozac and suicide on youtube and cry.
If you have suicidal thoughts or are depressed you should
not be flying passengers!!! That is plain and simple.
is the FAA crazy.. Remind me not to fly Air Canada and Australian airlines..

Anonymous User
Posted by Jason Luongo
Thursday, April 15, 2010 2:43 PM EST

The general public has many distorted opinions about aviation and it's mostly caused by media hype. This article fails to mention that, pilots using these drugs must under go a psychiatric evaluation every 6 months. The situation before enacting these changes is that pilots were self medicating, abusing alcohol(which is a much bigger problem) and/or wouldn't seek treatment for these ailments due to the fact that they may be grounded on the basis of merely seeking help or taking a prescribed drug. This new rule will make the air safer by reducing those types of situations. Let me further explain that not every pilot is an airline pilot flying the general public, there are many more private then commercial pilots, and I am certain that there is NOT going to be any sort of explosion of airline pilots going on antidepressants.

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, April 15, 2010 5:26 PM EST

Part of the medical certificate means there are periodic check-ins. Thanks for the input!

Anonymous User
Posted by joe dupont
Friday, April 16, 2010 9:04 AM EST

The bottom line is that commericial pilots have a
very big responsibility to be able to react instantly to emergencies. I don't want to be a passenger with any pilot who is not 100% committed
to my safety. The suicide rate on those who use
such drugs is twice. Japan Air and maybe Egypt Air had two apparent suicidal pilots... two too many.
I'm sure that some of the people who think that pilots on Prozac is ok may be on similar stuff themselves. Perhaps 15-20 percent or more are on this kind of crap.

Anonymous User
Posted by Jason Luongo
Friday, April 16, 2010 10:39 AM EST

As I assume the only airline pilot commenting on this thread, I will tell you that we are required to have a 1st class medical which is now good for 1 year, there are routine checks such as blood pressure, eye sight, hearing, ect. there is no mental screening for pilots what so ever, in addition there is no drug screen as part of that medical. Drug tests are left to the airlines and there is a pre-employment as well as random drug tests. Those tests do not screen for antidepressant drugs. The new rules will give pilots an opportunity to be honest about whether or not they have used them. The bottom line is always safety and I've never met another pilot who isn't 100% committed to the safety of the passengers we fly. What the flying public should be concerned about are the rules concerning the number of hours we can work compared to the number of hours of rest we are required to have, this in combination with low pay which make many pilots have to commute to work cause extreme fatigue. Fatigue is safeties worst enemy. These two things are exploited by the airline companies to make more money at the cost of the pilots well being. And it will remain this way as long as the flying public wants to fly coast to coast for $300

Anonymous User
Posted by William
Friday, April 16, 2010 4:10 PM EST

Ahh.., the voices of fools. I have taken anti-depressants since 1994 to combat so-called clinical depression, or major depression, or whatever you wish to call it today. I WAS suicidal before going on the drugs. After about three weeks, the symptoms subsided and have remained at bay since. The only side effect that has persisted is weight gain and retention. As a person working toward a PhD, my mantra is, "Show me the evidence." Show me hard, statistical evidence of these problems in people who maintain their prescribed regimen - not anecdotal stories of the wacko next door who won't stay on her pills.

Anonymous User
Posted by Joe DuPont
Friday, April 16, 2010 4:33 PM EST

God Bless you WIlliam.
You are doing the best you can. but don't tell me
that just because you are smart enough to get your PHD that you can fly a plane. Many are called and few are chosen. I don't have to show you the evidence. I won't buy a ticket.. and the airlines can starve until that look out for us.
They train astronauts... Can you imagine a man landing on the moon.. Neal Armstrong being on drugs for depression. You get someone who is fit
for the job.

Comments for this article are closed.

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