Tablets for fear of flying: why we don’t prescribe
them any more.

People sometimes ask the doctor or nurse to prescribe diazepam, or similar
drugs like lorazepam temazepam or clonazepam, for fear of flying or to help
sleep during flights.

Prescribing these drugs is not recommended any more for these reasons:

  1. Although plane emergencies are rare, taking Diazepam reduces
    awareness and reaction times for patients so you risk not being able to
    react to save your life if you have to escape quickly. You may also put
    other people in danger by getting in their way or making them help you.
  2. The use of these drugs can make you sleep in an unnaturally deep sleep.
    This means you won’t move around as much as during natural sleep so
    you have a bigger risk of getting a blood clot (Deep Vein Thrombosis –
    DVT) in the leg or lungs. Blood clots are very dangerous and can kill. This
    risk is bigger if your flight is longer than 4 hours.
  3. They have short term bad effects on memory, co-ordination,
    concentration and reaction times, and are addictive if used for a long
    time, with withdrawal leading to fits, hallucinations, agitation and
    confusion. They have also become widely used drugs of abuse since they
    first came on the market.
    Diazepam in the UK is a controlled drug. The prescribing guidelines
    doctors have to follow say that that use to treat short-term ‘mild’
    anxiety is inappropriate. They are only to be used short term for a ‘crisis
    in generalised anxiety’. But if you are having such a crisis you are not
    likely to be fit to fly. Fear of flying in isolation is not a generalised anxiety
  4. Some people get agitated and aggressive after taking diazepam and
    similar drugs, and behave in a way that they would not normally, which
    can pose a risk on the plane. This affects everyone’s safety and could get
    you into trouble with the law. A similar effect can be seen with alcohol,
    which has led to people being removed from flights.
  5. There is evidence use of these drugs stops the normal adjustment
    response that would gradually lessen anxiety over time, and may
    increase anxiety in the long term, especially if used repeatedly.
  6. Diazepam and similar controlled drugs are illegal in a number of
    countries. They may be confiscated or you may find yourself in trouble
    with the police.
  7. Diazepam stays in your system for some time. If your job or sport needs
    you to have random drug testing you may fail this having taken
  8. It is important to tell your travel insurer about your medical conditions
    and medications you take. If not, there is a risk of your insurer not paying
    if you try to make a claim.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused however we do hope that our patients understand our reasoning behind this decision from the points given above.

With regards,

The West Heath Surgery team

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