Drugged Pilots Take To The Air

Pilots can fly now on antidepressants.

National Public Radio has published an article on the subject, FAA Will Allow Pilots To Take Antidepressants.

“I’m encouraging pilots who are suffering from depression or using antidepressants to report their medical condition to the FAA,” FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement announcing the shift. “We need to change the culture and remove the stigma associated with depression. Pilots should be able to get the medical treatment they need so they can safely perform their duties.”

Medical treatment here means biological psychiatric treatment as opposed to psychoanalysis, or a more holistic alternative. Biological psychiatric treatment means prescription drugs.

We may need to ‘remove the stigma associated with depression’, but the stigma associated with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and any number of other psychiatric disorders is going to stay, at least as far as piloting passenger planes is concerned. The Federal Aviation Administration is still in no rush to see schizophrenic pilots hired.

This thing is pretty drug specific.

Pilots can only have mild-to-moderate depression, and they can only take one of four medicines: Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, or Lexapro. (Generic equivalents are available for the first three.) After sifting through the medical literature, the FAA figured the side effects from those medicines wouldn’t interfere with a pilot’s ability to fly a plane.

Perhaps people in the FAA have bad eyesight, or are illiterate and can’t read. These drugs have little black boxes on them warning that they may cause in the taker an increase of suicidal thoughts.

Prozac is produced by Eli Lilly, Zoloft is produced by Pfizer, Celexa and Lexapro have lost patent protection, and are now considered generic drugs.

There is also a requirement that these depression prone pilots show that they’ve been in treatment for a year, and that they’ve gotten their symptoms under control.

Pilots can’t fly on neuroleptics, mood stabilizers, ADHD drugs, or anything else of the sort. I’m thinking that perhaps instead of permitting pilots to fly while on antidepressants, maybe we should be giving them periodic drug tests to see if any of them are flying on any of these unapproved drugs.

Watch out. I don’t think there are going to be any notices going up anywhere about which planes have pilots on antidepressants and which planes don’t have pilots on antidepressants.

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