Pilots and Addiction

Pilots and AddictionWhile airline pilots may not be the first group that comes to mind when one is considering those at special risk for drug abuse, the concerns that plague pilots daily put many of them in danger of turning to substances to help them cope with the demands of their job.

Reasons Pilots Abuse Drugs

The following is a partial list of what drives airplane pilots to drug abuse and addiction:

  • Long hours in the air
  • Packed flight schedules with little time for sleep
  • Airline understaffing, which assigns many pilots heavier workloads than they are reasonably able to bear
  • The stress of being responsible for hundreds of passengers’ lives
  • Memories of past accidents, a pilot’s own or that of a loved one
  • Protracted periods of time away from home, family, and friends
  • Unexpected emergencies (sudden turbulent storms, air attacks in unfriendly skies, a medical emergency among the passengers or crew, a terrorist hijacking, a malfunction in the engine or body of the plane)

Stresses like these are not common in most professions, and they are often more than one person can handle.

Drugs that Pilots Are Likely to Use

Pilots are most likely to take stimulants to give them the energy needed for long flights and demanding schedules, but any mind-altering drug is a likely candidate for abuse by an overstressed pilot. Some of the drugs to which airplane pilots become addicted include the following:

  • Caffeine
  • Amphetamines
  • Crystal meth
  • Alcohol
  • Aspirin
  • Marijuana
  • Opiates
  • Barbiturates
  • Cocaine
  • PCP
  • Prescription painkillers

Drug abuse by pilots is dangerous for many reasons. If the pilot has an overdose while flying and is accompanied by an inexperienced copilot (or no copilot), he has endangered his own life, the lives of anyone else on board, and the lives of those on the ground where he may crash. Addiction will lead one to spend more of his paycheck on drugs and less on necessities for himself and his dependents. He is also injuring his professionalism by engaging in illegal behavior.

Pilots should not justify drug abuse. If the stress of his job is too much for him, he should consider a serious conversation with his doctor and his supervisor, or even a career change. No amount of enjoyment or profit that he may receive from flying is worth risking lives.

Recovery Help for Pilots Addicted to Drugs

There are addiction recovery programs specifically for pilots who have fallen into substance abuse during their careers. A call to our toll-free, 24 hour helpline can provide you with instant information about such programs, along with free guidance to finding the right program for you. If this article describes your situation and you are ready to do something about it, please call us right now.