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Fear of flying

Airthrey Park Medical Centre does not prescribe benzodiazepines (e.g. diazepam) for flying anxiety/fear of flying. For every medication that we prescribe, we have to consider and balance the benefits against the risks. When it comes to benzodiazepines for fear of flying, the risks are much more compared to the potential benefits.

This type of medication (tranquilliser/anxiolytic) is a sedating drug which poses several safety concerns:

  • It can make you drowsy; your reflexes and reaction times can be slower which can put you and others at risk in case of an on-board emergency.
  • It can make you sleepy; this medication does not offer natural sleep, but sedates you which means you are going to have less natural body movements. This increases the risk of getting a blood clot (even further to the known risk of a long-haul flight).
  • The sedative effect can reduce the level of circulating oxygen in your body, which can be life threatening especially in people with respiratory problems, given there is already lower oxygen concentration in higher altitudes
  • If you have to drive on your arrival destination, you might be putting yourself and others at risk by doing so under the influence of a sedative.

Considering the indications for prescribing this type of medication:

  • It is not approved for treating phobia states, meaning it would be inappropriate to have it issued for that reason, while the doctor prescribing it for you takes a significant legal risk by acting against the guidelines.
  • It is only indicated for relief of symptoms in those suffering from severe or disabling anxiety (and usually only when advised by a specialist/psychiatrist).

Other risks to consider:

  • In some people, this medication can cause the opposite of ‘desirable’ effect, including agitation, confusion and disinhibition, leading you to behave in ways that you would not normally. This can have an impact on your own safety and that of other passengers and crew, while it might also get you in trouble with the law.
  • If your job requires you undergo drug testing, this medication can stay in your body and make you fail that test.
  • In some countries this medication is illegal so you are at risk of breaking the law by carrying it with you.
  • It should not be mixed with alcohol which is usually offered on board. 

We appreciate some of our patients may have a genuine fear of flying or feeling nervous during the flight. Nowadays, many flight companies provide “Fear of flying” courses which support people to overcome their anxieties around flying, helping also in the long-term alleviation of symptoms. Below there are a few links to some of those courses for you to explore: