Why the doctors do not prescribe tablets to help patients who have a fear of flying
Patients sometimes ask the doctors to prescribe Diazepam, or similar drugs, because they are frightened of flying or to help sleep during a flight.
Prescribing these drugs is not recommended for the following reasons:
- Taking Diazepam reduces awareness and reactions so you risk not being able to react swiftly to save your life if you had to evacuate the plane quickly. You could also put other passengers at risk by requiring their help or getting in their way.
- These drugs can make you sleep in an unnaturally deep sleep. This means that you would not move around as much as during natural sleep, so you have a bigger risk of getting a blood clot (Deep Vein Thrombosis-DVT) in the leg or lungs. Blood clots are very dangerous and can kill. This risk is bigger if your flight is longer than 4 hours.
- These drugs have short term bad effects on memory, co-ordination, concentration, and reaction times, and are addictive if used for a long time, with withdrawal leading to fits, hallucinations, agitation, and confusion. Diazepam in the UK is also a controlled drug. The prescribing guidelines state that ‘use for short term mild anxiety is inappropriate’. They should only be used for a ‘crisis in generalised anxiety’ and if you are having such a crisis you are not likely to be fit to fly. Fear of flying in isolation is not a generalised anxiety disorder.
- Some people become agitated and aggressive after taking Diazepam and similar drugs and behave in a way that they would not normally, which can pose a risk on the plane. This affects everyone’s safety and could get you into trouble with the law.
- There is evidence that the use of these drugs stops the normal adjustment response that would gradually lessen anxiety over time and may increase anxiety in the long term.
- Diazepam and similar controlled drugs are illegal in a number of countries. They could be confiscated, or you may find yourself in trouble with the Police.
- Diazepam stays in your system for some time. If your job or sport requires you to have random drug testing, you may fail this having taken Diazepam.
- It is important to tell your travel insurer about your medical conditions and medications you take. If not, there is a risk of your insurer not paying if you need to make a claim.
The aviation industry offer various ‘flight anxiety courses’
- Flying with Confidence - British Airways
- Fear of flying course - Easyjet
- Flying Without Fear - Virgin
Published: Sep 21, 2022
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