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FAA Changes Policy, OK’s Depression Medication for Pilots

April 5, 2010 | Posted in: Airfare News,DOT,Pilots,Travel Tips

faa depression pilots

Did you know something like 15 million Americans suffer from depression? And naturally, that would include some of the men and women in the cockpits of the planes you fly. Except of course, they’ve had to keep that a secret.

Until now.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is changing its rather anachronistic policy that banned pilots from taking depression medication. Which meant, in the past, pilots who wanted to fly either had to quit taking their medication – or hide it – or not take any at all.

Kind of scary, huh?

By the way, depression is considered a very treatable condition – although a substantial number of people don’t bother with treatment, presumably, in part, because of the stigma. Which is a shame.

Keep reading for the “rationale” behind the FAA’s change of heart: it’s all about – safety…

Beginning today, pilots with “mild to moderate depression” will be allowed to fly – while taking medication – if they can prove they’ve been “satisfactorily treated for at least 12 months”, according to CNN.

The FAA’s federal air surgeon, Dr. Fred Tilton, says they don’t know how many pilots suffering from depression are active, but they figure it’s probably close to the numbers of the general population, which is believed to be around 10%.

The rationale behind the FAA’s change of heart? Dr. Tilton told CNN, “We think it’s safer to [make sure pilots are treated for depression] than to continue to drive it underground.” I couldn’t agree more.

In case you were wondering:

“Commercial pilots under the age of 40 are required to undergo a medical exam by an FAA-certified physician every year; those over 40, every six months. But the examination focuses largely on the pilots’ physical health, and there is no formal assessment of the pilots’ mential health.” CNN, 4-2-10

3 Responses to “FAA Changes Policy, OK’s Depression Medication for Pilots”

  1. Andrew Shepp says:

    Now I am really depressed. What other conditions can’t pilots seek treatment for?

    Heart murmur? Myopia? Gattica?

  2. Rick Seaney says:


    But you have to admit, they’re moving in the right direction.


  3. Mark says:

    I think they are going totally in the wrong direction. People who are depressed seldom cause harm to anyone else. The side effects of depression medications however, can cause mania, irrational behavior, and even suicidal tendencies.

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