In a recent post, Angie posted a comment, asking about [tag]ADHD Medication[/tag] and being a [tag]commercial pilot[/tag]. She says that she has a friend who believes that he has ADHD, but is scared to seek help because he is worried about keeping his job.
I wanted to add this comment as a full post – mainly because I need your help.
I have searched online and found three articles which may help to guide anyone concerned about being a pilot with ADD/ADHD. I would love to hear from anyone who has experience in this field – just go to the bottom of this post, and enter a comment to share your thoughts and experiences.
I will tell you that since there are great data showing that drivers who have ADD/ADHD are much safer when they are taking their medication, I would like to think that a pilot would be encouraged to take his/her ADHD medication as needed, for everyone’s safety.
The magazine ADDitude, answers a pilot’s question about Ritalin here. In summary, the FAA would not approve Ritalin, and it could show up in screening urine tests. This article suggests that the FAA may allow other ADHD medications in pilots.
This site reviews the medicines that the FAA allows in pilots. This site suggests that the [tag]FAA[/tag] generally does not approve any of the ADD/ADHD medications – Ritalin, Adderall, Strattera (and I presume this would include the other preparations like Metadate CD, Ritalin LA, Daytrana (the Ritalin Patch), Biphentin, Focalin, Dexedrine, Dexedrine Spansules, Adderall XR). The article does say that the FAA may approve these in special circumstances.
Finally, at risk of being political here – I recall an incident of ‘friendly fire’ in Afghanistan. American pilots mistook Canadian soldiers on the ground for the enemy, and fired on them. Several Canadian soldiers died and were injured. When the investigation took place – one issue which came up was the use of ‘go pills’ by the American pilots.
“Go pills” are dexedrine – the amphetamine used to treat ADD/ADHD. Click here for a full review of go pills. This article explains that Dexedrine is given to help to prevent ‘pilot fatigue’ in the militar. The [tag]go pills[/tag] are used because more pilots and planes have been lost in wars due to fatigue, rather than due to combat.
However, the article explains that civilian pilots are not allowed to have anything stronger than caffeine to battle fatigue. It doesn’t mention the use of Dexedrine to treat ADD/ADHD.
So, in the end, I am still not sure what would be allowed for a commercial pilot with ADD/ADHD to take for hes/her condition.
My hope is that this industry would be willing to be open to the recognition of and treatment of ADD/ADHD, because of the possible improvements in safety if ADD/ADHD is well treated.
However, the concern from a pilot may be that if this condition is brought forward, that he/she may lose the ability to keep flying.
This topic brings up several important questions for me, and I am going to pose them here to see if you (my readers) can help to shed some light on them:
- Do you think that pilots may have higher rates of ADD/ADHD than the general public? I guess I wonder if the allure to flying may attract people who think quickly, and are willing to ‘push the envelope’ more – i.e. ADD/ADHD’ers.
- If you were a passenger on a commercial airplane, would you want your pilot’s ADD/ADHD treated with medication, or not?
- Do you have any experience with or know of someone’s experience with the FAA to get ADD/ADHD treated with medication?
- Do you know of anyone who ‘lost his wings’ because of coming forward with a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD?
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Hopefully we can help to share ideas here, and support the pilots who are in the ranks of ADD/ADHD.
If you think of someone who may benefit from reading this article, please click the little envelope below, and send them an invitation to come to this site.
Wishing you safe flights,
Dr. Kenny Handelman