Michael C. Hennenberg

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Drug use among pilots

Drug use is dangerous for anyone who operates a vehicle, but the risks are tremendously high for pilots. An impaired driver who causes a crash may just injure themselves or a few others on the road. An impaired pilot who causes an aviation accident could literally take dozens of lives in a split-second.

Naturally, this means that the authorities are very strict about drug use among pilots. Those who commit drug crimes, even if they do not lead to an accident, could lose their pilot's licenses and see other serious career ramifications. To some degree, the same is true for the use of alcohol -- which, after all, is a drug.

What drugs see use among pilots? Along with alcohol use, studies have found marijuana use, which has shown an increase. The top drug found in one study, though, was diphenhydramine. This is an antihistamine designed to offer sedative relief for those who have a cold or who have allergies. It also sees use in sleep-aids.

This underlines one of the biggest issues for pilots, commercial drivers, truck drivers and others: They need to make sure they understand exactly what they're taking. Many common medications can actually really impair their ability to do their job and may put themselves and others in danger. People often take over-the-counter medications without even reading the warning labels or understanding the side effects, and that's very risky.

If you find yourself facing charges that could result in the loss of a pilot's license or another commercial license, make sure you know what legal options you have.

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