ADHD Medication and Commercial Pilots

plane 120x180.thumbnail ADHD Medication and Commercial Pilots

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:

  1. 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.
  2. If you were a passenger on a commercial airplane, would you want your pilot’s ADD/ADHD treated with medication, or not?
  3. Do you have any experience with or know of someone’s experience with the FAA to get ADD/ADHD treated with medication?
  4. 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


  1. I’m a private pilot. In high school I was put on ritalin because my parents felt that it would improve my academic performance and the idiot counselors and psychologists thought I was retarded or something because I was a pretty lazy/unmotivated student. Maybe it did maybe it didn’t. To be honest I think once I began taking courses that I was actually interested in such as astronomy, marine biology, all my high school science classes rather than boring mundane courses taught by boring instructors, I improved. I stopped taking the drug before going to college. I was not as good as a student in college as I was in high school but I don’t blame the medication rather I think it was having to take what I deemed useless courses in order to fulfill a very interdisciplinary degree requirements along with perhaps a bit of partying, women, and flying.

    I’m also horrible at math, always have been and that was the sole reason I was put on the meds in the first place. Big deal, in college I strayed away from mental math intensive courses. I studies languages, earth sciences, economics, photography, music, geographical information systems. In my junior year I found that there was a small airport close by and decided it was time to finish an early childhood dream of becoming a pilot.

    My degree was very ‘colorful’ as is my resume which reflects my ADD. I don’t think I could be an engineer or a doctor, I’m not focused like a telephoto lens but rather more like a wide-angle.

    At my 2nd class medical examination (yeah I though I would get to commercial pretty quickly…..) I did what the AME told me to do and he deemed me fit for flight. I don’t remember anything where I was asked about ADD/ADHD but I wasn’t taking any kind of medications other than the occasional ibuprofin for headaches or a claritin for nasal allergies.

    Almost a year later I passed my checkride in the dark (examiner was late but it was a nice clear winter night.) So not to get too long winded here, flying was and is still the most interesting thing I’ve ever tried to do and it taught me how to overcome weaknesses in learning as well as helping with motivation. Learning how to use an E6B improved my basic math skills which I had not touched since high school until taking the GRE for graduate school.

    We tend to be good at what we love no matter if it’s flying, programming computers (i hate programming,) music, or whatever….you shouldn’t have to take drugs to be able to accomplish skill that you are very interested in performing. This is just my 2 cents, you may be different. Besides I think I spent the majority of my time daydreaming during my primary education about flying, it pays to have your head in the clouds (no IFR pun intended.)

    It’s never a good idea to lie about your medical history. I was never asked so I never mentioned it. You’ll learn to work around your weaknesses. Now if you have a serious condition where you can’t hold altitudes, airspeeds, attitude because you can’t open up your situational awareness and you need drugs to maintain that situational awareness, you have no business piloting an aircraft. I feel that the FAA hasn’t done enough testing and is worried about people who have the potential to lock-up and not stay on the ball so to speak.

    • see iv never lied about anything but they never asked me either about ADHD… & i would have to say most the time in school id sit ther in stareee at the teachers lips and not hear a thing goin on..or jus stare at tha chalk board.but not really be seein tha chalk board at alll. so yeh i think wut u have around u to be intrested inn.. has alot to do with it..and im sayin it has taken me most my life to figure out what i really wanted to do…because iv jus ben so wishy washy about everything i like or do…. one of the biggest un decisive people ever…. but once i got tha rush outa actually takeing props and wings off planes…mannn i knew id never get tired of that…soo findin somethin u really love is a huge thing that helps for me mos deff.. :)

    • Well, as of 2014, the pre-physical asks if you’ve EVER been diagnosed with any mental disorder in block 18m. That opens the rabbit hole for the AME to ask about Ritalin, and he has to deny you if you’ve ever took it.

  2. “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”-Henry David Thoreau

    That was Thoreau speaking from his work “Walden” where he left society and went to go live out in the woods with nothing but an axe for a very long time. This is an excellent book for those on either side of this argument because it encourages those who are attempting to comform to FAA rules by getting off their accomodations, but it also gives this advice for those who want to petition and change the rules…

    “If you build castles in the clouds your work need not be in vein. That is where they belong. Now put foundations under them.”

    I can say it certainly is a pickle. What I don’t think alot of people realize is the benefit this treatment has to the right person. The results for myself over the past 20 years have been phenomenal. I’ve written a book, something that would not have been possible otherwise, something that will be a permanent record for the rest of time connecting me to endless future generations. I don’t think my pilots liscense will ever come close to doing anyone any benefit after I’m gone, but still the FAA would rather I suffer getting off of it to live a dream than to not and benefit both sides of the soul. How pathetic.

    I think we can all agree that anyone reading this post is probably a human being. Now that we all have something in common…

    Human beings, without passion or prejudice, should be legal flying on their meds for attention problems. If you want to see what people are like off their medication crack open a history book, its a bloody past. To deny a human being their right to occupy a flying machine and take to the sky is to sentence them for a crime they did not commit. They found their own answers through decades of trial and error and now the humanity of the FAA wants these individuals to go back to the bottom of the mountain and do it all over again with a blindfold. I laugh at anyone who calls this justice. you deserve a cave and not the beauty of the sky I see when I fly.

    A true pilot sees more than other men. Yet here anyone for abstinence from treatment is blind as the day they were born.

    I have one suggestion for those who would tell anyone to stop their treatment: Stop flying. If you cant summon the smallest amount of integrity to see what issues are really at stake here then stop flying. The human attention span may be a problem for a creature not naturally endowed with wings, but it is your honor that is a danger to everyone not those who are working to fix their human condition.

    The FAA can determine if humans have ADD as well as they can determine whether or not one is honorable or dishonest, its a ridiculous argument and contest me for eternity but mark my words this generation will be the last to ever have to suffer such a malevolent doctrine as this.

  3. I think someone who think he/she has ADHD and doesn´t seek help because of fear of losing their jobs is irresponsible.

    Because forgetting something , or focusing too much on one aspect that takes away from general situational awareness can compromise not only their own safety, but the safety of passengers, or locations where he/she is flying.

    I am currently taking the Private Pilot course and I landed on this website because I sometimes forget things like my keys, or cel phone. i know this is why there are procedures and task lists but still i really believe having ADHD can be a limitation to safety in aviation.

    • I STRONGLY disagree with you here. I am only 13 years old. I have ADHD so I KNOW what I’m like off of my medications (I go absolutely insane without them), yet I have dreamed of a career in aviation. This is a VERY touchy subject for me. As I was researching this topic, I was crying at what I found. I can see myself sitting in the pilot’s seat, flying a beautiful 747 from place to place, escaping close calls and averting disaster. Yet to be denied this because of something I can’t change is like ripping my heart out: I can’t live without my dream job that I could sufficiently support myself in. Flying is my passion, and taking that away from me because of something I CAN’T CHANGE is like being denied basic human rights.

      I am OUTRAGED that you would say something like this because I am a pretty fair pilot already, and what you are saying is that I HAVE TO BE DENIED THIS BECAUSE I AM “A LIMITATION TO SAFETY IN AVIATION” BY LAW OF ONE LITTLE THING, WITH NO EXCEPTIONS. It’s like a blind man writing beautiful poems. He may have trouble writing them, but they are the most sensory poems ever written, and then his mind is taken away because he can’t see. In both of these cases, you have a physically challenged person doing amazing things, and they are illegally doing them because of their health.

      Whatever happened to the philosophy of looking at the whole person rather than defining them by one thing? Does that not exist in our modern day and age? ADHD is ADHD. It will always exist. We can’t get rid of it, and the millions of people who have it now have to face limited job opportunities because of ONE SMALL THING THEY CAN’T CONTROL. Does that even SEEM fair? Should I be denied of the one passion I can turn into a successful career because of two little pills so I can control myself and make better choices, or deny my own treatment so I can fly, then crash before I even TAKE OFF? What’s the point in that? What’s the point in living like this? I should be preparing for college by now, and the one thing I have been preparing for has gone up in flames. I am begging, and challenging, for those of you who have ADHD and agree with me to stand against the FAA and change this”unjust war” for our futures. We can’t escape this, and perhaps those that have ADHD will be the best pilots in any airline. But what would I know? I’m only a teenager with ADHD who’s never been in the cockpit, and, at this rate, never will be.

    • I cannot be ashamed by anything more than what you are saying. Like Tom said, obviously you don’t have ADHD. I am only a teenager who is (not to brag, but I can’t think of a better way to put this) incredibly gifted, with a strong passion in aviation. I am attending the Air Camp in Dayton this summer, and it’s likely to be the closest I’ll be able to get to real flying. On the final day, after training (and with a training pilot), we can fly as copilot on a small flight, and I am hoping that the military doesn’t have the same narrow view of ADHD as the FAA. Because if they do, I will have wasted money on something that will be the closest thing to real flight. I will never get another chance again if my ADHD is not corrected.

      While I was on spring break, I was doing a bit of research on this topic. When I learned about all of this, it broke my heart. That night I kept switching from screaming in my pillow to crying my eyes out, and I eventually cried myself to sleep. To this day it still hurts, and it has left a deep scar. I have always loved the idea of flight, and I had just started to plan for a future as a commercial pilot at the time. It felt as if someone had ripped my heart, my passion, out and replaced it with an empty shell of my former self.

      I am ashamed and outraged that someone who has no experience in a matter like this can say something as cruel as what you said. ADHD is more than simply forgetting your keys. I have to fidget with something in my hands so I can focus, or (being the artist I am (again, not to brag)) draw an incredibly detailed drawing from my head. Some of my teachers in the past took away my sketchbooks, and my mental state suffered heavily (surprisingly my grades didn’t). Many times I felt so ashamed and alienated that I couldn’t stand it any longer. I had to find somewhere quiet to refocus and calm down. However, I guess you could say I am one of the lucky ones in the world of ADHD; one of the kids in my school told me that he needs his meds just to go to sleep, and you can easily tell that they usually don’t work during the school day.

      I remember one of my third grade teachers yelling at me for doing an assignment while she was talking (fairly easy to see why), but what she didn’t understand was that I was listening as I worked. She only realized how gifted I was after I came in first place for a local and regional Lego building competition, with a $1,000 scholarship from the regional. Even after that, it felt as if there was no real difference.

      My ADHD has caused me many problems, as well as years of adjusting many medications, but the worst part of it is the the limited views that many have about the disorder. It’s even worse than the random, rude outbursts I have that I can barely control, the ones that make you feel like an idiot, even if you “handle it well”. From the discrimatory views of the FAA and strangers such as yourself; and what feels like my teachers, classmates, other students, and even my friends and family, sometimes I feel alienated from them. It’s become manageable thanks to the Strattera and Concerta, but I have to force down two disgusting pills. I was hoping to have a stable future as a commercial pilot, but I can’t. I always tap my feet, even though I try to resist the urge; I barely eat throughout the day; I’m hardly ever hungry until the evening; I’m almost always tired; I can barely sleep at night; I’m always grouchy in the morning; and I have a lot of schoolwork, usually with three or four projects I have to balance (thanks to project based learning) and trying to earn scholarships from Girl Scout Silver Award (starting next year it will be the Gold until I’m done with high school) and even kung fu, which also helps me focus and calms me down.

      What to do, now that my future has gone up in flames. Do I follow my heart and lie to the FAA to become a successful pilot, or choose the path of becoming a (likely unsuccessful) naturalist? (My other passion is nature and birds) I can trust myself on my meds, enough that I am confident about flying successfully as an airline captain, but I am practically certain that I would crash five seconds after takeoff without them. I know how to handle air emergencies and the basic principles of flight, so I would really only need to get my private and commercial licenses. And for my talent to be wasted makes me feel sick to my stomach.

      Answer me this, then, why do so many people have such a narrow view of something so serious? Think of the German Wings flight that recently crashed. Since when did we let those who had, and still had, history of suicidal thoughts and actions fly, while those suffering through much more… “complex” mental disorders were told that they couldn’t, right off the bat, without much consideration? Where’s the sense, and safety, in that? I can also tell you one thing: ADHD is NOT the reason for the lists; its because aircraft have become much more complex than what they used to be, thus more has to be done to be sure that the aircraft is flight worthy.

  4. Rachelle, there are many limitations to safety in aviation. I don’t think ADHD is one of them. It may be a challenge though. But even more is having the blueprint of some of your problems or assumed weaknesses set out for you an incredible present. If you are told “You-ADHD” then start working on it! It’s the feedback you wery crying for. Next flight don’t just throw some stuff in a bag but carefully prepare, work on social skills, study effectively: like carry a book around everywhere you go if you know you’ll hardly be able to study at home, etc, etc. Don’t let nobody tell you what you can or cannot do-just don’t accept that. In fact flying made my life difficult but very rewarding and I learned to work with (check-)lists. Such a handy tool at home. An ADHDpilot that knows his weaknesses and strong points can be an excellent pilot. Just one thing: Don’t make a habit of using ADHD as an excuse, not to others, not to yourself. It’s a challenge and a blueprint to succes if properly used. >20 years, 10000 hours of flight, mostly as captain in a flag carrier, learned me that. If you fail or don’t want to become a pilot, that’s fine. You don’t need to have ADHD for that, go find or make something else your’re good at. I don’t use prescription medication, tried it, don’t like it, don’t need it. You probably don’t need it too.

    • i agree with u so much… idk how bad it iss with me, but never have taken medicine..and jus really would like to know im not getting my hopes up.. like with my dreams of an a&p mechanic & pilot with ADHD.. I mean yeh i have sum problems with organizeing..and remembering some things but im good at concentrateing on that.or gettin better now that im gettin the ideal of whats been goin on with me after all this time…ALL the teachers would say i was a bad kid, & i talked to much :) but, hey i thought that was jus everyone…lol but i mean i knooo im smart and perfectly capable of doing all that the job requires…with my special “intellectual” suffering…lmao :0 (good way to put itt) -im just worried after al my school-ing and hand onn expierences..will this ADHD hold me back in the FAA ‘s eyes???????? like job wise.. or just established wise..???

  5. Since nobody really answered this guy’s question, I think I can help contribute some good information….

    I always dreamed of becoming a Commerical Pilot ever since I was a child. In high school, I was lucky enough to have parents that could afford sending me to weekly flying lessions to help earn my Private Pilots License (PPL). I was doing outstanding. I loved every single second of it…the freedom, the sounds of the prop, the annoying voices in the radio…everything. I booked about 25 hours total flight time. I was on my way to get clearance for my first solo flight without an instructor. Unfortunately, I had to pass an FAA certified phyiscal exam, which includes drug and psychiatric testing.

    The reason I say “unfortunate” is because I was disqualified for having my drug test come up positive for Adderall. I had (and still have) ADD/ADHD. Not once did somebody say “you can’t be a pilot and have ADD or take drugs to treat said disorder”. After spending thousands of dollars on flight lessons, I had to stop taking Adderall for a full year, get a psychiatric re-evaluation to approve me for my solo flight. This was not good timing because it was my Junior year of high school and could not afford to stop taking my medication since I was already struggling in classes as it is. I decided to stop taking PPL flights and continued taking my medication.

    I stopped taking Adderall once high school was over and I have slowly learned to live with the disorder instead of using medication to suppress it. It’s a decision that turned out for the better. I feel better and in more control of my personality. I think if I were to do it all over again, I’d never take my meds and just learn how to properly “live with” the disorder. I still get distracted (chronically at times) but I have been able to “snap out of it” and use my disorder to concentrate on things I don’t like doing.

    IN SHORT: NO, you cannot have ADD and be a pilot. NO you cannot take medication to treat your illness. JFK Jr had ADD and apparently took Ritalin for it. It is really quite said that the FAA has a closed mind to ADD/ADHD treatment. Being on medication had no effect on me as a pilot. I also find it quite hyopcritical that the FAA could pass a guy like JFK Jr who clearly had ADHD and still got his PPL. There needs to be some serious reform in the FAA as far as what drugs you can and cannot take. Accutane and depression is one thing, but Adderall for a someone with a learning disability is something else

  6. Rachelle– obviously you don’t have ADD or ADHD. If you did have it, you would understand how it affects your daily activities. It isnt as simple as “i forgot my keys” or “i keep day dreaming in math class”. it’s sort of like starting one task before one is complete. I loved and cared for flying as if it were my life. I instructor told me I had the best landing approach for anybody near my age. I bet I can repeat what ATIS said 45 minutes after I listened to the frequency.

    don’t assume things about a learning disorder you’ve never had. sure, ground classes were dull and sure, sometimes the instructor would have to repeat things for me to understand them. when I’m in the air, my ADD is my best asset. I can keep my head on a swivel, I can see two aircraft at my 2 o’clock and my 11, I can see the powerlines close to my traffic pattern entry, I can acknowledge the tower quickly. I can pretty much promise you I am a better pilot in the sky thanks to my ADD.

    It’s like David Neeleman (JetBlue Founder) said: “My ADD brain naturally searches for better ways of doing things.”

    • heck yehh im rite there witch ya..i toatlly embrace my learnind the max..i wouldn be who i with out it..i wouldn of even found my dream of flying with out it for sure..and i deff agree on tha 11 ‘oclock and 2′ oclock thing… haa deff. know wut u mean :)

  7. Hey guys… I know this question has kind of been answered… but I feel like I need some sort of guarantee before my dad continues paying for flight lessons…

    Ok I’ll try to make this short. I was diagnosed with ADD when I was 10 years old.. I am now 19 years old. I’ve been on medication ever since… but I dont think that I have ADD anymore. I can function fine without it (i.e. weekends, during the summer)

    So heres my situation. I plan on weening off the meds within the next month and a half. After that, I’ll get my family practitioner to put on my medical record that I no longer have ADD and that I am no longer taking meds for it. If all of this happens, will I be able to walk in and take an FAA medical exam and pass? (class 3 to be exact)

    My worry is that they might hold it against me that I had previously taken the drug… but if I’m clear and my record says that I dont have it anymore, will I be able to pass?

    Secondly… will they even ask for my medical record? I’ve had friends go in for FAA medicals and they weren’t required to give their medical history. I need to know how to get from where I am now… to where I need to be so that I can get my class 3 medical. Any help is appreciated… as with most of you my dream is to fly, and I’ve done so much research on this topic that I’m exhausted… thanks.

  8. Luke,

    I don’t have much to advise, however I’m a member of AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Associate) if you’ve ever heard of them. They offer a program called AOPA Medical Services Program that may be beneficial to check out, given the situation you’re speaking of with ADD.

    It isn’t free, however given the countless hours and hundreds/thousands that will be spent on training, it’s well worth it to have the advise of professionals.

    Hope this helps!

  9. Hey Ben thanks a lot for your insight. Actually, because of the overwhelming talk about the AOPA, I decided to join them a couple of days ago. They do have a lot of information on all sorts of medical issues and the no fly list.

    As for anyone else that needs information on ADD and ADHD, I feel like there are a few things that I need to tell you. First off, JOIN THE AOPA! Their cheapest fee is $35 a year, and that’s not a lot of money considering all of the help you’re going to get! They have a number you can call, and medical specialists that you can email. The best part is that you can ask all the questions you want without incriminating yourself by talking to an AME first.
    Secondly, you CAN get a medical certificate if you stay off all of your medications for 90 days, and you pass certain neurophycological tests after being off the drug. *IMPORTANT* Make sure that you talk to your doctor first about weening off the drug instead of just dropping it “cold turkey” as they say, thats not good for you!
    Finally, if you’re like me, then you will do whatever it takes to fly. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t need a drug to survive… and that I would rather struggle just a bit when it comes to concentration rather than giving up my possibly future career as a helicopter pilot! If you have ADD or ADHD, this isn’t where your interest in aviation stops. Trust me, this is only a minor speed bump in a long journey of excitement! Don’t give up my friends, don’t be discouraged!

    Good luck to everyone, and continue on these comments with any other questions!

  10. My son is 15 yrs old and going throught the Young Eagles program. His dream is to become a small aircraft/private pilot. However, as of 2 years ago he has been medicated for mood disorder with lamictal and ADHD with concerta. Is it possible for him to still pursue being a pilot as a career? After everything I’ve read it breaks my heart for him that it may not be possible. He will need to be on those medications at least proabably through high school to get through it. Any suggestions?

  11. Of course the FAA wants pilots to be “perfect” and basically drug-free. If you take ADHD meds, consider another profession as aviation may be too much trouble. Believe it or not: I hold an ATR (air transport rating-basically an airline pilot’s licence and I have logged thousands of hours as an airline pilot and as a military aviator. And I have a bad case of ADHD. Alway had it and probably always will; I have taken amphetamines (dexedrine, recentlyAdderal) forever and have cheated on the drug tests-hate to, but had no options. I retired from the reserved as a colonel and from the airlines as an international captain. At 65 I volunteer as a bush pilot flying medical evacs in various medically underserved areas of the world. Don’t was your time fighting the FAA; they are a mindless, stupid bunch of government workers.

    • Let’s imagine this scenario: You are a member of the FAA, and are tasked with choosing between one of two people wanting to become private pilots. One of these people have no medical issues, but are horrible at flying an aircraft. They are pretty much clueless when it comes to flying, and have failed all of their flight tests, but are determined to receive their license. The other has a perfect flight history, and understands the rules of the sky, as well as what to do in an emergency. The catch, they take medications for ADHD and refuse to give them up. If you choose the first person, they are the cause of a crash a few years later (cause: pilot error). If you choose the second, you’ll be fired. If you don’t choose either, you’re fired. What would you do in that scenario? (I understand that it may not work like that, but it does seem reasonable to assume these risks.)

  12. hi my name is kevin I studying to be a pilot but i have one question flying a plane is not a problem for me but the theory work is. it is ok to used the medicine for the theory work.

  13. well as an A&P mechanic (in training)lol-& student pilot… I also wonder the same thing…i think its a BIGG possability that people with ADHD would be more subjective to the aviation industry, because tha work pace it self, rather it be mechanic-ing or just fyling, is a very fast paced environment. but, whitch is a good thing, cuz then wer never bored, things are always changing,.. its a must’ to have a fast minded responce,& we’l never lose intrest in what were doing. Because just as fast as our ideals are flowing inn-& out of our brains.. the enviornments & our working habbits or what u call chores of tha job”…change just as quickly… so in ” our ” little shortly intrested world.its a perfect ideal job.. well i think so.. o & another thing id much rather my pilot be one who does.. DOES have ADHD ..BUT..-doesnt take any medication for it..– i jus look at it like this 22 im perty sure i have ADHD never been diagnosed with it..but have every symptom in tha book..iv worked @ a airport for almost 5 yrs working on private sized cessna’s or beechcraft.or bonanza’s single or twin engines. airframe & powerplant work.under tha supervision of my superior Administrator… with NO medication..jus running on straight adrenaline to succeed.& yet has it seem to stand in my way..i mean yehh i sometimes do a cple diff task at one the mechanic-ing area..but they all get done right and correctly and again… under the teachings of my adminstrator of course…. sooo yess i would like to kno anything about pilots and ADHD and A&P mechanics…

  14. I’m good friends with three professional career pilots (in the military and airlines) that they are comfortable admiting in private to having been previously diagnosed with ADD but have stopped taking medicaton and hide the fact they have it. They know that if they continue treatment they will lose their medical & their career will be over. They are all amazing & safe pilots. If I include myself the total comes to 3 out of 4 with confirmed ADD.

    I find the high workload / stimulation / multi-tasking required extremely enjoyable. For me there is nothing more exilerating than flying an approach single pilot IFR in actual conditions – there are a zillion things going on at once that you must keep track of, tons of interuptions that must be immediatly addressed, etc. An ADDers dream.

    If you could somehow collect better data I wouldn’t at all be suprised to find the pilot community has statistically significant higher rates of ADD.

  15. I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 12. We tried different things that didn’t seem to work, until Adderall. Other than the side effects of the stimulants, I seemed to be doing fine. Then my MD told us (this was back in 2002) that a new drug, Strattera, had come out as the first non-stimulant medication for ADHD. We tried it and it worked like a miracle.

    I remained on it, gradually increasing the dose until 2011 when I felt like it wasn’t working anymore (I still had symptoms of ADHD so I knew I hadn’t “grown out of it”). My idiot doctor (a new one) put me on the max dose of Adderall (I weigh ~130lbs). That was the week from hell! Lost 7lbs, couldn’t eat or sleep. I asked him to get me off that sh*t and went to a new doctor who suggested Wellbutrin as a non-stimulant used primarily for depression but also ADHD and smoking cessation.

    Anyway, that’s gotten me through the last 2 years of college and I’m finishing my final year of Nursing school starting this Fall.

    I recently took one of those Introductory flights and LOVED it (I had always grown up in the aviation industry and had my eye set on a PPL). The instructor said I did great and he let me fly 98% of the flight (I think he took the yoke just for touchdown but had me apply brakes and taxi to the ramp). Reading more into medical restrictions, however, really discouraged me. I mean I guess I could try going off the meds with the help of my Psych Nurse Practitioner, but I can’t even sit here and type this without fidgeting around!! And with another year left in nursing school I’ll need them!! (wait was that Propofol or Propanolol? 20mg or 200mg?) :P

    Seems like lots of people lie about it these days, and since its not an Amphetamine or Benzo, I theoretically could too since it wouldn’t show up on any drug tests. Then if something does happen or the FAA does find out, I run the risk of losing the license forever, or at least a very long time.

    They’ll allow people to fly under the ‘influence’ of Ritalin, a Schedule II Controlled substance!! Other Schedule II’s include things like Cocaine, Opium, Morphine, Oxycodone and Adderall (Amphetamine salts). These pilots are approved on a case-by-case basis, and from what I’ve read, usually have to be off the meds 48+hrs prior to flight, and their license has restrictions, whatever those might be (maybe they require someone to fly with them? or no night flights?), but they won’t approve a non-stimulant anti-depressant like my Wellbutrin?! I mean how many pilots are already out there flying around with ADHD?? Wouldn’t this only make our skies safer rather than forcing people to lie and hide their condition or stop their meds?? It just makes no sense! However, the FAA seems to be moving in that direction- as of April 2010 they approved 4 anti-depressants, all Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), for pilots to be able to fly with.

    Furthermore, I can work as a nurse on Adderall, being trusted with peoples’ lives in a different way. Lastly: while flying comes with higher risks, we have a greater chance of dying in a car accident due to inattention (texting/talking while driving, etc), yet they don’t screen extensively for a driver’s license.

    Just my $0.02


    • Jeremy,
      I’ll be short as I just wanted to clarify a few things for you. First, the FAA will pull your medical if they find out you are on Ritalin, or any ADD medication for that matter. ADD, or the suggestion of it, is a disqualifying condition. Even if you go off your medication they will order you to take a very expensive battery of aptitude tests / IQ tests to find out the extent of your ADD. If you really do have “debilitating” ADD they may not issue your medical, though I think you would have to do pretty terribly for this to be the case.
      I don’t agree with the FAA on their position here, but if you really want to fly you’ll have to give up the meds completely and wait about a year and a few thousand dollars satisfying the FAA’s medical certification division.
      I would speak with someone in the industry and in the know on the FAA before doing ANYTHING related to applying for a medical. Believe me, it will save you a lot of time, money, and heartache.

  16. I am a junior rotary wing charter pilot .after passing my cpl no sweat I am employed but secretly struggle with things like finishing one job before I start another and just other little basic things and the boss saying your doing a great job.mate you just need to down.a bit . I’m hideing it best I can but can’t talk to anyone about it. Or seek any kind of help for fear of loosing my job and the$ 70 000 I laid out for my licence .surely its only a matter of time before the boss figures it out ,and that stress is eating me up , dose any one else get those feelings of secret shame

    • same boat mate.

      Junior Rotary pilot diagnosed with ADD when i was younger but don’t take meds.

      At first I was told to slow down a lot with tasks but my flying was never bad.
      If anything the boss is impressed by my flying and I think its the fact that its the only task I can do where I feel normal and my brain enjoys it.

      I think being other enthusiastic with ADD helped my studies too.

      Chin up and make sure you do everything into wind accept pissing.


  17. I was just denied my 3rd class medical certificate from the FAA, the reason cited was that I have been prescribed Adderall.

    Have just now started a long and drawn out process to appeal the ruling, and have requested information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) concerning the number of denials of medical certificates and accident data where the direct or proximate cause was a flight crew member that was legal prescribed medication to treat ADHA.

    It’s interesting to note that the FAA did recently approve medication for treatment of depression, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) pilots can still obtain there medical certificates while taking these drugs.

    I plan on reaching out the makers of Adderall for some help in fighting a large government agency that is actively discriminating against people who are taking a drug that they manufacture, if it worked fro Prozac, why not Adderall?

  18. Greetings,
    I was diagnosed with ADD as a child. I was able to stop taking meds for it when I was about 15. I graduated high school without the meds, though it was a struggle and was able to join the Army after graduation. I served from 2003-2007 and was honorably discharged. After getting out, I used my GI Bill to go through flight school, first obtaining a FIRST CLASS MEDICAL CERTOFICATE! I earned my private pilot’s licence for single engine and multi-engine, complex aircraft, both in 2009 WITHOUT MEDICATION! In 2011 I became a full time single father of 3 which was a chore for the old thinker, to say the least, so I requested my primary care doc put me back on meds so i could better keep track of everything. Shortly after I began taking meds for ADD again, I went in for a flight physical to renew my mexical certificate and was denied. I passed all my flight classes, tests, and became a licensed pilot without the meds and now that I’m on them and better able to multi-task than ever before, I’m unfit to fly! I miss flying dearly and I want to get my medical certificate back but haven’t the slightest clue how to go about it or if it’s even possible. Please help!

  19. Hi, I am 59, and had to retire early from teaching Special Education in the Public School System.
    I have been on Dexedrine or an equivalent–generic for over 20 years. I have been diagnosed with ADHD,(30 years ago), and then later had to take different medicines for Bi-Polar, Anxiety, Severe Depression and have had many other heath concerns. In the last 12 years I’ve had three back surgeries, with the last one with fusion. My ADHD testing indicated that I bottomed out, am in the normal range of intelligenge and scored superior in 2 of the subtests. I was applying for Social Security Disability, which I received after 2 1/2 years. I volunteered to take a thorough battery of tests as I was not functioning well. When I was put on Medicare, I paid paid for Humana Gold Plus which is an (HMO) supplemental Drug Coverage. The new price of my medicine for ADHD jumped from 35 dollars to over 200 dollars. I need medicine to function, but the price range per month is out of range, I tried to receive it at a lower tier but it was not approved evidently. I’ve gradually reduced and with my doctor’s help will be going off of Rexalti…it’s over 300 dollars.
    I have never had a manic episode while on Dexedrine. Then my pharmacist at Walgreens suggested your brand of DEXMETHYLPHENIDATE 15 MG. er CAPSULE, I AM SO EXCITED, WITH YOUR BRAND AND MY INJECTION IN MY BACK, I believe I can have a normal life, I am happy and am productive . What a relief!!!!! Is there any way I can get this much needed medicine for less money.
    Please recommend what I can do rto receive your DEXMETHYLPHENIDATE 15 mg. taken twice daily?

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