The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decided this week to reverse it’s long-standing rule regarding pilots flying on antidepressants.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression “interferes with daily life, normal functioning, and causes pain for both the person with the disorder and those who care about him or her. Depression is a common but serious illness, and most who experience it need treatment to get better.”
The new FAA guidelines allow pilots with mild to moderate depression to fly while taking antidepressants, as long as they have proof of satisfactory treatment for 12 months.
The FAA has also put into effect an amnesty period where any pilots on antidepressants can come forward without penalty, and can regain their ability to fly as soon as they have met the 12 month satisfactory treatment requirement.
For now, there are four antidepressants the FAA will allow medical clearance for: Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa or Lexapro (generic names fluoxetine, sertraline, citalopram or escitalopram). In the future, the FAA plans on approving more drugs on a case-by-case basis. The FAA has chosen these medications after determining they are extremely safe drugs with few side effects.
Pilots on antidepressants will be monitored by FAA-certified medical examiners on a regular basis, so passengers don’t have to worry about pilots taking medications without proper medical follow ups.
In the past, pilots that had a depressive disorder who needed antidepressants to fight their depression had few choices: admit they need the medication and never fly again, take the medication in secret and hope that no one finds out, or turn down the medication they need.
For pilots, this means no longer having to choose between their career and their health. They can take their medication and still do what they love. They won’t have to sneak around to take medication to help them live their life. They can be happy and be pilots.
While some travelers are worried, the FAA’s new stance on antidepressant usage is good for passengers as well. You don’t have to worry about your pilot being suicidal from a major depressive episode. You know that your pilot is on the medication he needs to perform his job duties to the fullest. The FAA knowing about pilots on antidepressants will also provide another check to make sure that they are receiving effective treatment, which should help put passengers more at ease. The antidepressants the FAA has chosen are not sedatives or cause any reactions that would put a passenger’s life in danger. By requiring a 12 month satisfactory treatment plan, you can be sure your pilot has been stable for a year before flying your plane.
This ruling will help many pilots regain control of their lives – whether by getting their career back, not having to lie anymore or by being able to take medication to make their lives better.
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