Fear of Flying

Posted by: andreaf - Posted on:

Prescribers at Oaklands Medical Centre have reviewed benzodiazepine prescribing and have agreed a new policy not to prescribe benzodiazepines or sedatives (such as diazepam) to patients for fear of flying. 

Patients come to us, asking us to prescribe diazepam for fear of flying. There are several very good reasons why prescribing this drug is not recommended.

  • Diazepam is a sedative that 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 4 hours.
  • Whilst most people find benzodiazepines like diazepam sedating, a small number have paradoxical agitation and increased aggression. They can also cause disinhibition and lead you to behave in a way that you would not normally. This could impact your safety and that of other passengers and get you into trouble with the local authorities.
  • According to doctors’ prescribing guidelines (BNF), Benzodiazepines are contraindicated (not allowed) in treating phobia. Your doctor would take 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 get proper care and support for your mental health and not go on a flight.
  • Diazepam and similar drugs are illegal in some countries. They may be confiscated, or you may be in trouble with the local authorities.
  • 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.

Although we appreciate that the fear of flying is very real and very frightening, we will no longer be providing benzodiazepines or sedatives for flight anxiety and instead suggest the below aviation industry-recommended flight anxiety courses, which are easily accessible for those who wish to conquer their fear of flying:

  1. Easy Jet www.fearlessflyer.easyjet.com Tel 0203 8131644
  2. British Airways www.flyingwithconfidence.com  Tel 01252 793250
  3. Virgin www.flyingwithoutfear.co.uk  Tel 01423 714900
  4. https://thefearofflying.com/programs/fly-and-be-calm/