Fear of Flying
Flight anxiety does not come under the remit of General Medical Services as defined in the GP contract.
We are not obliged to prescribe for this and discouraged from doing so by our governing bodies/regulators.
- Patients who still wish to take benzodiazepines for flight anxiety are advised to consult with a private GP or travel clinic.
- Diazepam is not licensed as a sedative for aircraft flights and will not be prescribed for this purpose. Diazepam in the UK is a Class C/Schedule IV controlled drug. Diazepam is a sedative, which means it makes most patients sleepy and more relaxed. If there is an emergency during the flight, it may impair ability to concentrate, follow instructions and react to the situation. This could have serious safety consequences for the patient and those around them.
- Sedative drugs can make patients fall asleep. However, it is an unnatural non-REM sleep. This means the sedated person won’t move around as much as during natural sleep. This increases the risk of developing a blood clot (DVT) in the leg or even the lung. DVT is a serious (sometimes life-threatening) medical condition and risk of a DVT increases with longer flights.
- Whilst most people find benzodiazepines sedating, a small number experience paradoxical agitation and aggression. They can also cause disinhibition and lead patients to behave in a way that they would not normally. This could impact on the safety of other passengers as well as the patient and could also precipitate trouble with the law. This is particularly likely if diazepam is combined with alcohol.
- According to the prescribing guidelines (British National Formulary) diazepam is contraindicated (not allowed) in treating phobic states It also states that “the use of benzodiazepines to treat short-term ‘mild’ anxiety is inappropriate.” Your doctor would be taking a significant legal risk by prescribing against these guidelines. They are only licensed short term for a crisis in generalised anxiety. If this is the case, you should be getting proper care and support for your mental health and not going on a flight.
- Diazepam and similar controlled drugs are illegal in a number of countries. They may be confiscated or you may have additional sanctions placed on yourself.
For all of the reasons above, patients who experience fear of flying are recommended to address it with a Fear of Flying course run by the airlines. Examples include:
You can contact the following clinics for Private Travel advice:
- Winchester Travel Clinic – Telephone number 01962 856646
- Southampton Travel Clinic – Telephone number 02380 631922
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