Pilots and Antidepressants

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The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) now allows pilots to continue their in-air responsibilities if they are on certain antidepressants. Historically, pilots have not been allowed to fly while taking antidepressants as many of the original antidepressants had side effects which could be extremely serious if they occurred in flight. Side effects such as seizures or heart problems could be fatal not only for the pilot but for everyone. With so many pilots in the air, even relatively rare side effects would ultimately prove fatal given the many cumulative hours pilots spend in flight.

In a break with these historical regulations, the FAA will not allow pilots to be certified for flight if they have been taking antidepressants for at least a year with no side effects.

Some have speculated that abut the same number of pilots suffer from depression as the general population–about 10%–and that this will allow better monitoring, since it is suspected many pilots do not mention this on their forms as required.

This brings up another interesting thought: do other professions look to see who among their practitioners are taking medications which may affect their performance or which may have relevant side effects? Various stands stands could be taken regarding this, from close monitoring from agencies to a more libertarian perspective. Where along this continuum would your thinking lie?

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