Thursday, March 29, 2012

Another SSRI story?

Here are some highlights from the latest New York Times article on the ruckus on the Jet Blue aircraft.

Two years ago, the F.A.A. relaxed its longstanding ban on psychiatric medications for pilots, saying that new drugs for depression had fewer side effects than older drugs. The agency now grants waivers allowing pilots to fly while taking Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa or Lexapro, and their generic equivalents.

The F.A.A.’s administrator at the time, J. Randolph Babbitt, said the agency was relaxing its ban because it was concerned that some pilots with depression were not being treated, or were being secretive about it. “We need to change the culture and remove the stigma associate with depression,” Mr. Babbitt said then.

But the F.A.A. said in an e-mail on Wednesday that since April 2010, less than one-half of 1 percent (0.016 percent or 20 out of 120,000 pilots who have a first-class medical certificate) have taken advantage of the F.A.A.’s policy. Pilots on commercial airliners are required to have a first-class certificate.

A 2006 study by the F.A.A. of post-mortem toxicological evaluations of 4,143 pilots killed in accidents from 1993 to 2003 found that 223 were using mood-altering drugs like antidepressants, according to The Associated Press. Only 14 of the pilots who tested positive for the drugs reported a psychological condition on their medical forms, and only one reported using a mood-altering drug. None of the pilots determined to have used neurological medications had reported that on their medical forms, the AP reported.


  1. Rossa,

    Dr. Drew was talking about this incident last night on his show. He had a "bipolar" guest, who he allowed a few minutes to speak on the subject. She mentioned that she was both "bipolar" and had experienced PTSD... both in the same breath, which I found fascinating.

    Dr. Drew used the opportunity to discuss "brain disorders" and "chemical imbalances"... pointing to the need to medicate, specifically saying that "bipolar" responds well to "anti-convulsants" and that seizure disorders and "bipolar disorder" were much the same.

    The sad part of all of this of course is that as Robert Whitaker points out in his research, the antidepressant group of drugs are inducing "manic episodes"... leading of course, to diagnoses of "bipolar disorder."

    All I can say is that we don't need another "bipolar" spokesperson to tell the world how he/she was diagnosed and "treated."

    I found it interesting that Dr. Drew only allowed her a brief period to tell her story, as if his only mission was to quickly move toward the need for "proper treatment"...
    His guest said that she did not like the term "psychiatric" care, at which point he quickly said that there was no reason for "stigma".... These illnesses are just like "any other illness"...

    Here we go again.


  2. Thanks for letting us know. Where does one even start with this? I am very suspcious when people claim that they have dual labels (dual diagnosis, as they say in the trade...)What it means to me is that the person has problems and the pychiatrist is only too happy to assign more than one label, more than one drug. And, we don't need more TV doctors. I have never seen Dr. Drew, nor Dr. Phil, nor Dr. Oz, but he is at least right about one thing. I learned from my reading about the assemblage point that bipolar, epilepsy, schizophrenia, and depression are all energy imbalances, and can be treated with or without drugs. (Dr. Drew left out the very important part and non-drug treatment.)
    For a fascinating look at the shaman's view of this, google Jon Wale interview re stationary assemblage point. I'll provide the link in my next comment.

  3. Rossa,

    I'm not a big fan of Dr. Phil, who attended grad school at my alma-mater, the University of North Texas. He got his doctorate in Psychology. The person who started the program, was Dr. Joel Butler, who incorporated neurofeedback and dream interpretation. Dr. Butler was keenly aware of how foods/chemicals can have a profound effect on behavior, and knew a great deal about Environmental Medicine, so Dr. Phil is hardly a spokesperon for some of the seeds Dr. Butler planted at UNT. These talk-show hosts size people up, and marginalize them for the whole world to watch... and I find it all pretty disgusting.


  4. Here's the Jon Whale link re the assemblage point.

  5. It's funny, but the comments above don't seem related to the pilot/antidepressant piece that precedes them. Am I missing something? But I think the question of professionals taking medications is very complex. As a former physician, I initially felt that treating my mental health problems with medication made me more effective. But my perspective has changed. Not only are these drugs variable in their effects on people, they also have been shown to be pretty ineffective in most cases of mild to moderate depression. A pilot with severe depression probably shouldn't be working until the condition resolves, and a pilot with mild or moderate depression probably doesn't really benefit from the drug. I don't have an answer here, but thanks for raising an interesting topic. One of the most striking though unsurprising facts is the rate of nondisclosure. Why would pilots be truthful in the face of potentially career-ending consequences?

  6. Will,

    My apologies for taking the discussion off-course.

    Rossa, thanks for the link.



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