Medication Requests for Fear of Flying

We are occasionally asked by patients to prescribe sedating medication for flying. 

We regret that we are not able to facilitate these requests on the grounds of patient safety and our need to prioritise the delivery of NHS care on the basis of patients' clinical needs.

Sedating medication, e.g. benzodiazepines such as diazepam, can make someone either paradoxically aggressive, or less able to follow instructions in an emergency, thus putting crew and other passengers at risk.

Sleeping tablets similarly have no indication for flying, and again could make a passenger difficult to rouse or transfer if there was a genuine in-flight emergency. Often passengers mix these medications with alcohol, with significantly increased consequences. We would not wish you to to be barred from a flight or face prosecution, or find yourself incapacitated due to the unpredictable effects of a sedative medication. The drug driving legislation which came into effect in recent years would also potentially prohibit onward driving from an airport.

Flight anxiety should be treated by Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - a form of counselling, which has long lasting benefits and is safe. Airline carriers offer excellent courses for free, so do speak with your flight provider to arrange to go on a course well in advance of when you know you will be flying.

There are plenty of good quality fear of flying courses available in the UK which are easily accessible by those who wish to conquer their fear of flying, eg:

We acknowledge there may be occasion when you have previously received a prescription for this purpose and we regret that we will be unable to agree to such requests going forward. This is a joint decision, unanimously made by all senior clinical staff within the practice.

We have been supported in the drafting of this policy by Cambridgeshire Local Medical Committee.