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Pilots and Psychiatric Medications

I never realized that the Federal Aviation Administration could decline someone from becoming certified if they took certain psychiatric medications – even antidepressants and/or medications for ADHD, or if they had a psychiatric diagnosis such as depression or ADHD.

If you have or have had a psychiatric diagnosis or are taking medication, you are required to get a “Authorization for Special Issuance of a Medical Certificate” from the FAA before you are allowed to fly.

Here’s a list of diagnoses/medications and the FAA’s stance on them. Note that Major Depressive Disorder is not listed. This is not because it is an “acceptable” psychiatric diagnosis for FAA certification.
FAA list of psychiatric diagnoses

One could argue that they would rather be a passenger in a plane flown by a pilot with successful treatment of his depression rather than a pilot that cannot/will not seek treatment due to the ramifications on his career. Likewise, I would rather be a passenger in a plane flown by a pilot that is taking effective medication for ADHD rather than not taking any at all!

About the Author:

Dr. Stephanie Sarkis is a National Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), and AMHCA Diplomate and Clinical Specialist in Child and Adolescent Counseling based in Tampa Bay, Florida, where she specializes in the treatment of ADD/ADHD. Dr. Sarkis conducts evaluations, testing, diagnosis, and counseling services. She also is a public speaker, consultant, coach, and is a facilitator in collaborative law.

5 Comments

  1. lee ann November 23, 2009 at 12:32 am

    there are a LOT of pilots out there struggling with treatable depression or bipolar that do not get treatment because it could end their career. Something needs to change.

  2. Stephanie December 1, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Lee Ann – I agree…something needs to change. I wonder where we could start?

  3. randy December 21, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Pilots can NOT use ADDHD drugs period. I was told by and AME that if your ADD needs to be treated by drugs the FAA does will NOT let you fly.

  4. Stephanie December 21, 2010 at 10:54 am

    You are correct, the FAA does not allow pilots to take stimulant medication for ADHD.

  5. Stephanie December 21, 2010 at 11:45 am

    In addition:
    Strattera is a non-stimulant medication that has been FDA-approved for ADHD. It would be good to check if the FAA would approve this medication for the treatment for ADHD, since Strattera’s chemical composition is that of an antidepressant. Therefore, if the FAA allows anti-depressant use for mild to moderate depression, why not allow Strattera for the treatment of ADHD?

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