Good news! The Federal Aviation Administration is lifting its ban on allowing pilots to fly while on antidepressants.
Bad news! I still can’t be a pilot.
While lifting the ban on antidepressants made for great headlines today, it’s not until you read down into the story that you learn that under the new policy, pilots who take one of four antidepressants — Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa or Lexapro — or their generic equivalents will be allowed to fly “if they have been successfully treated by those medications for a year without side effects that could pose a safety hazard in the cockpit.”
That’s cool, but they are all SSRIs. What if a pilot needs more, like Wellbutrin, an NDRI, along with an SSRI? That’s my regimen. I take Lexapro AND Wellbutrin. Does that mean the pilot cannot fly? Yes.
“We need to change the culture and remove the stigma associated with depression,” FAA administrator Randy Babbitt said in an agency press release. “Pilots should be able to get the medical treatment they need so they can safely perform their duties.”
Who can disagree with that? Up until now, pilots faced a choice: don’t get treatment or self-medicate and lie about it (which is a federal offense). I understand not wanting pilots to take medications that cause drowsiness. D’uh. But the newer generation of antidepressants have fewer side effects.
So, I have a suggestion for the pilots who take Wellbutrin. Tell your bosses you are taking Zyban (Wellbutrin in sheep’s clothing) to help you quit smoking!
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Last reviewed: 3 Apr 2010