Pilots On Anti-Depressants "Safer"

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The first study on the safety records of pilots taking anti-depressants suggests they're no more likely to crash an aircraft than those who don't need the drugs. The study was done in Australia, the only place it could be done since it's the only country that allows pilots to take anti-depressants and keep their medicals. "There was virtually no difference in the number of incidents or accidents," Professor Kathy Griffiths, a mental health researcher from Australian National University, told a mental-health conference in Australia. "But importantly, there was a tendency for more accidents in the period prior to pilots going on to anti-depressants, but not once they were on them."

Use of anti-depressants is medically disqualifying in all other jurisdictions, but Australia has allowed them since 1993 and up until 2004 the medicated and unmedicated pilots groups each had five major accidents. The unmedicated had 15 incidents compared to 18 for those on the drugs but that wasn't considered a significant difference. "This really confirms for the first time that the longstanding liberal policy of supervised anti-depressant use introduced by CASA to allow medicated pilots is a good one," said Professor James Ross, a co-investigator and former aviation medical specialist with Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). "But it does raise a lot of questions about what is happening in all these other countries, where presumably people secretly take medication unsupervised, or they just fly depressed, increasing their chance of incident."