Monday, December 1, 2008

FAA regulations and medications--maybe it doesn't have to be so depressing

Several years ago a flight instructor friend of mine told me that she had been grounded from her passion. Why? Because her physician had recommended an antidepressant to manage her PMS, and the FAA does not allow pilots to simultaneously use antidepressants and fly.

She had a sense of humor about the situation, rationalizing that the FAA guys simply did not understand that her PMS was much more of a safety issue than the potential medication side effects. Even so, she was working to resolve the situation so that she could be back in the skies.

This issue is important, for several reasons.

1. Most importantly, being diagnosed with depression and then being told you have to take a prescription medication for the condition can cost you the livelihood you've worked very hard to have.

2. Antidepressants and mood stabilizers (medications approved to treat bipolar disorder) are prescribed for a whole lot of "off-label" uses. That is, physicians are using them for a lot of diagnoses, such as PMS and certain pain conditions, that have absolutely nothing to do with depression. It is so important to know your options, and to be educated on which natural options are consistent with FAA regulations. Some are not.

3. The origin of depression, (which I'll get to in a post I'm working on for later in the week), is such that pilots, given the nature of job demands, are particularly prone to developing it. It's not about a character weakness in a whole lot of cases, but how the nervous system breaks down under certain kinds of stress, such as sleep deprivation.

4. In order to keep flying, there may be a temptation to use someone else's medication who ISN'T flying, which is the most dangerous scenario of all. Two people are at risk; the one who isn't using the medication they've been prescribed, and the one who's taking medication without being supervised for potential side effects.

Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do to help minimize your risk of depression, that have nothing to do with medication. You'll feel better, and hopefully enjoy your flying a whole lot more, and potentially extend your career longevity. Most importantly, you'll be safer.

I do need to clarify that this blog is not intended to substitute for any medical orders you have been given. I will be providing information that may help improve your overall health and minimize your risk of actually receiving such medical orders, but I am not advising you to not follow instructions your medical provider has given you.

If depression has been or is an issue for you, please check back, or subscribe in the box you see so you can get the updates as they're written.

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