By Nurse Mark
Many readers may know that I am a private pilot. I was at the airport the other day chatting with some other pilots about the subject of drugs and drug testing when one fellow (a commercial pilot) observed:
The problem is that pilots are human, and subject to all the normal problems everyone else goes through. When a pilot gets depressed, they cannot seek help, or they could be grounded for a period that can last for years.
Why is it OK for police, judges, firemen, doctors, and other jobs with great responsibility to be successfully treated with anti-depressants, but pilots are expected to be superhuman physically and mentally?
He is quite right – it is really NOT ok for there to be such a double-standard.
On the other hand, no one is functioning at their best when taking side-effect producing pharmaceuticals.
In the case of pilots the FAA has the oversight and the clout to do something about it and as a result the list of drugs that pilots are allowed to use while flying is very small. Most other professions do not, and so you find judges making bad decisions that affect peoples lives, cops who put themselves, their partners, and the public at risk with dulled (or hyped-up) reflexes, crane operators making bad decisions with drug-dulled judgment, and so on.
It is worth remembering however that depression is not caused by a Zoloft or Paxil or Effexor deficiency, anxiety is not caused by a Valium or Xanax deficiency, high blood pressure is not caused by a Beta Blocker deficiency, diabetes is not caused by any drug deficiency… and yet these are common problems that people use judgment and reaction-time dulling drugs for.
Maybe you can get this stuff "covered" by some health care plan, and maybe it doesn’t affect your employability, and maybe you really don’t care that you are disabled to some degree by side effects… lots of people don’t really care, just as long as their insurance “covers” it.
But if you’re a pilot, it’s a big concern. Allopathic (conventional) treatment for many illnesses uses conventional drugs that will ground a pilot, resulting in a sudden and severe loss of income – no wonder many attempt to hide their problems. While hypertension or arrhythmias or diabetes will probably be found out on the FAA physical, depression can be hidden with varying degrees of success.
But it doesn’t need to be that way. Given the financial incentive for a pilot to maintain the ability to fly, it’s worth stepping outside of the "corporate medical insurance plan" box to investigate alternative, non-conventional health care.
A visit with a naturopathic physician, while still reportable to the FAA, could be legitimately reported simply as "Nutritional and Dietary Counseling" even though the desired effect of that counseling might be to correct imbalances that may be causing, say, neurotransmitter imbalances and resulting feelings of depression. Result: reporting legitimately accomplished and privacy maintained.
A good Naturopathic Medical Doctor would perform neurotransmitter testing and make dietary and supplement changes to correct out-of-range neurotransmitters, without using reportable drugs. This is not fantasy or psychic woo-woo stuff – we do it successfully, every day here. Though Dr. Myatt is licensed to prescribe drugs she very rarely does – it just isn’t necessary. Drugs are more like Band-Aids – they treat the symptoms not the cause.
Why not treat the cause? Doing that usually gets much faster and more complete healing than just covering up the symptoms with a drug.
As a “bonus,” dietary supplements like L-5HTP, SAMe, St. Johns Wort, bromelain, grape seed extract, niacin, etc. are NOT reportable to the FAA or anyone else as "drugs"…
We are constantly amazed at the medical "problems" that folks drug themselves for that can be corrected without drugs.
- Hypertension – easily correctable without drugs,
- Type 2 diabetes – not just correctable but cured without drugs,
- Allergies – yep, drugless relief – that means no drowsy-making pills, and probably little or no return of symptoms next season too…
- High cholesterol – back to healthy ranges without drugs,
- GERD – a "slam-dunk" drugless cure with no “little purple pill” required,
- Heart arrhythmias – most respond very nicely to drugless treatment.
(True Story: We have a lawyer patient who was told after 3 successive EKG’s that he had a permanent and irreversible heart block – and that he was "a ticking time-bomb" who would likely need a pacemaker. After a month of drugless treatment his cardiologist repeated the EKG and shook his head in disbelief saying "If I were a lawyer I would not want to have to go into court to explain this – it’s gone and your heart is fine – and that isn’t supposed to happen!")
The list goes on and no, but you get the idea – mankind has survived and thrived for millennia without the help of modern drugs – what the heck has changed so in the last century to make us any different?
It amazes me that folks insure their automobile and don’t expect the insurance company to pay for their tune-ups, oil changes, new tires, or new muffler – but when you suggest to someone that they might part with a few of their hard-earned dollars for a health care consultation or vitamins or supplements they react with horror, expecting that to be "covered by the plan" or they just won’t do it. They maintain their cars better than they do their own bodies…
It would be like knowingly driving your car on a bald tire, waiting for it to blow out on the road so that you can call road service to come out and put the spare on… and still not bothering to get new tires "because insurance won’t cover it."
“Well who cares,” you say – “I’m not a pilot, and I don’t worry about the FAA.”
For everyone there is increasingly a privacy issue: more and more often we hear reports of HMO’s and insurance companies tracking health care usage and even day to day purchases with an eye to “adjusting” premiums or requiring “lifestyle changes.” You bought a candy bar in the checkout line at the grocery store? You might get a call from your insurer suggesting dietary counseling… Do you smoke? Even just an occasional cigar? Brace yourself for higher premiums. Did you mention some recent stress, insomnia, or blue feelings to your doc? Remember, all your medical records are on-line and accessible to your “insurance provider” (and who-knows-who-else) now… And all your prescriptions? There they are, “in the cloud” for all the world to see…
Or maybe you are a top executive in a company with nervous shareholders – or an employee in a company with a HMO that tells HR who is healthy and who is a “drag” on the company’s health plan…
So, if you have aviation buddies who are dancing around the FAA trying to avoid reporting ground-able stuff have them call us – I’ll bet we can help keep ‘em flying… and healthier than they’ve ever been… And for anyone else who wants to keep their health and their privacy, well, we can help you too.
No, your “insurance” is not your friend – good health, achieved without drugs, is.
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