amphetamine addiction in pilots, amphetamine rehab California

Amphetamine Addiction in Pilots

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Often condoned, Amphetamine use in pilots can have serious repercussions. When flying, most of us take it for granted that the pilot who is steering the plane is of sound, sober mind. While no airline would ever willingly allow a pilot to work while intoxicated by alcohol or most drugs, a troubling exception has been made for the use of one substance: amphetamines. The problem doesn’t stem from the world of commercial aviation but from the military, where pilots have long been encouraged and even pressured to partake. As a result, amphetamine addiction is a very real problem among pilots–and many are reluctant to seek help.

Why are Pilots Using Amphetamines? 

The U.S. military has willingly distributed amphetamines and other stimulants to fighter pilots for years. The practice was thrust into the spotlight back in 2002, however, when a tragic friendly fire incident over Kandahar, Afghanistan, claimed the lives of four Canadian soldiers and injured eight others. The two U.S. fighter pilots who erroneously bombed the Canadian squad had been taking amphetamines. On the street, the drugs are often referred to as speed or uppers; in the U.S. Air Force, they’re known as “go pills.” While pilots allegedly gain many advantages by using these pills, the incident in Kandahar illustrated how easily things can go awry.

People are often shocked to learn that the U.S. military condones the use of amphetamines among pilots. The military has insisted that it has relied on their use safely for more than 60 years. Amphetamines are a Schedule II narcotic, like cocaine, and there are many good reasons for this. Why, then, are pilots encouraged to use the drug? It’s mostly because amphetamines seemingly address some of pilots’ biggest issues when operating aircraft for hours on end. The pills heighten alertness, allowing pilots to focus more easily. They increase energy levels, allowing pilots to bounce across the globe without tiring. It is also believed that the drug can help to improve decision-making skills.

The Pilot Life Leads to Amphetamine Use for Many

Whether serving in the military or employed in commercial aviation, modern pilots are typically pushed to their limits whenever they’re on the job. Pilots face long hours, and they often get very little downtime between long hauls. Since they are responsible for safely operating a massive airplane and, many times, for the lives of hundreds of passengers, the work is immensely stressful. Amphetamines seem to address many of these issues, but there’s a catch-22: They are highly addictive, and the risk of developing serious substance abuse issues from using them regularly is extremely high.

One of the biggest sources of contention regarding the use of amphetamines among U.S. military pilots is just how “voluntary” the practice actually is. The Air Force has stated that pilots are encouraged to use Dexedrine, a type of amphetamine. They are given an informed consent form to sign to obtain the drugs, and it is described as being “voluntary.” However, the form also states that failure to use the medication could result in grounding. In other words, a pilot may not be allowed to work if they refuse to use amphetamines.

What this all suggests is that the military could very well be at least partly to blame for the prevalence of amphetamine addiction among pilots. As with the use of many controlled substances, even occasional use of amphetamines can be a slippery slope. Pilots tend to be natural risk-takers too, and this may increase the risk of developing an addiction to drugs.

When Occasional Use Leads to Amphetamine Addiction

A pilot who occasionally uses amphetamines while working is likely to notice and appreciate the results. Tolerance can develop quickly, however, and this means having to use more of the drug–or to use it more frequently–to achieve the same results. Unfortunately, this often segues into physical dependence as the body becomes accustomed to having the drug; the user starts needing the drug to feel “normal.” The last stage, addiction, can come on quickly–and it can just as quickly destroy a promising pilot’s career and life.

As many pilots who were introduced to amphetamines either through the military or through aviation culture can attest, overcoming an addiction to “uppers,” “speed,” “go pills,” as amphetamines are variously referred, is immensely difficult. Although withdrawing from stimulants like amphetamines isn’t typically as dangerous as withdrawing from narcotics and alcohol, the experience is generally quite unpleasant. Therefore, someone with an active addiction to amphetamines is wise to seek amphetamine addiction treatment California.

If you are a pilot with an amphetamine addiction, you may be reluctant to seek help due to fears about losing your job. However, the risks of long-term addiction are much more serious, and the right treatment center will work with you to protect your anonymity while you regain your sober footing. Our amphetamine rehab California understands the unique concerns of pilots and others with addictions to amphetamines, and we are ready to help. Learn more about our amphetamine rehab California or get help today by giving us a call.


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