FEAR OF FLYING
Patients come to us, asking us to prescribe sedatives such as Diazepam for fear of flying. Framlingham Medical Practice does NOT prescribe sedatives for fear of flying. This policy decision has been made by the GP Partners and is adhered to by all prescribers working in the practice.
The reasons for this are as follows:
- Diazepam is a sedative, which means it makes you sleepy and more relaxed. If there is an emergency during the flight it may impair your ability to concentrate, follow instructions and react to the situation. This could have serious safety consequences for you and those around you.
- Sedative drugs can make you fall asleep, however when you do sleep it is an unnatural non-REM sleep. This means you won’t move around as much as during natural sleep. This can cause you to be at increased risk of developing a blood clot (DVT) in the leg or even the lung. Blood clots are very dangerous and can even prove fatal. This risk is even greater if your flight is greater than four hours.
- They have short term bad affects 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.
- Whilst most people find benzodiazepines like diazepam sedating, a small number have paradoxical agitation and in aggression. They can also cause disinhibition and lead you to behave in a way that you would not normally. This could impact on your safety as well as that of other passengers and could also get you into trouble with the law.
- According to the prescribing guidelines doctors follow (BNF) Benzodiazepines are contraindicated (not allowed) in phobia. Your doctor is taking a significant legal risk by prescribing against these guidelines. They are only licensed short term for a crisis in generalised anxiety. If this is the case, you should be getting proper care and support for your mental health and not going on a flight.
- Diazepam and similar drugs are illegal in a number of countries. They may be confiscated or you may find yourself in trouble with the police.
- Diazepam stays in your system for quite a while. If your job requires you to submit to random drug testing you may fail this having taken diazepam.
We appreciate that fear of flying is very real and very frightening. We kindly refer patients to the following resources and courses for people that wish to still fly and want to conquer their fear of flying.
Flight anxiety does not come under the remit of General Medical Services as defined by the GP contract and so GP's are not obliged to prescribe for this.
Patients who still wish to take benzodiazepines for flight anxiety are advised to consult with a private GP or travel clinic.
It is important to tell your travel insurance regarding any medical conditions and any medications you may be taking.