Fear of Flying - Drugs?

Old Aug 19th, 2003, 07:57 AM
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Fear of Flying - Drugs?


As some may remember, I get very scared when I fly. It is wholly irrational and is worse on take-off and while sustaining any amount of turbulance.

Normally, I just grit my teeth, close my eyes, breath deep, and try to think of anything but flying.

I've read that some people are prescribed sleeping pills and tranqualizers to help with the fear. I've tried Ambien and it does not make me sleepy. My doctor prescribed Ativan, which he states will simply "take the edge off." Anyone else tried this or something different to combat flying fears?
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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 08:06 AM
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Ask your doctor about beta-blockers. Some use it help relax when making speeches. I have heard of Paxil for anxiety. Maybe Paxil is a beta-blocker. I don't know. Caveat: Many unwanted side-effects reported with Paxil that are yet to be fully researched. Be sure to follow your doctor's advice and don't accept any pills from well-meaning friends or family.
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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 08:30 AM
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MizzEve: I just went to my doctor yesterday and he prescribed Ambien for my lenghty nightime flight next month to Europe.

I have never taken it before and I am interested that you say it did not make you sleepy. Did you try a glass of wine with it? Did it calm you at all? I think my doctor said that Ambien and Ativan are in the same drug "family" such as Valium and Librium but that Ambien is a little stronger.
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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 08:41 AM
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gualalalisa, I just got a prescription for Ambien yesterday, as well, from my doctor. She strongly recommended that I try it out NOW, not the night before we fly, just in case my reaction to it is similar to Eve's.

Eve, you're leaving about the same time as we are, so I hope you find something that works for you within the next two weeks. You know we all feel for you.
 
Old Aug 19th, 2003, 08:42 AM
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I flew the Thanksgiving holiday after September 11. I have flown a lot and am very comfortable on planes, but the closer the day got to my trip the more anxious I became. I went to my doctor and she prescribed Xanax. She told me to start with one, but I could take 2 if I needed to. I made it all the way onto the plane without taking one, but as I was walking down the jetway, I could feel my panic level rising- I was becoming totally irrational!

I sat down and took just one Xanax. It made me pretty drowsy, but at least I was calm! The next thing I know, I woke up with the plane landed in Houston- it totally knocked me out!
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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 08:48 AM
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XANAX - end of story.

I, too, am not crazy about flying. However, I pop a Xanax (usualy .5 mg) about 60 minutes before takeoff. I have ZERO anxiety now. If it's a long flight, I'll pop another .5 and fall asleep. Or if it's an overseas flight, I'll wait an hour and take and Ambien.

There are none of the unpleasant aftereffects of alcohol, and time flies by.

These pharmacuticals are a godsend.

Coachboy
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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 08:55 AM
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Caution:
DO try the medication before you leave. I was perscribed Xanax (25 m) and it didn't do enough to calm me the way I expected to be calmed. I needed a higher dosage. And I'm a fairly small woman (5' 2". 115 lbs).
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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 09:13 AM
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I've had a doctor prescribe me Ativan for use on a long flight and found it helpful.
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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 09:31 AM
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MizzEve, there are many threads on this if you want to pull them up.

I am a big fan of Ambien for sleeping on long flights. It does not exactly make me sleepy either, but I close my eyes, get comfortable, and I find that the next time I look at my watch 3 or 4 hours have passed.

It is exactly this non-groggy effect that makes it such a good airplane drug -- if you should have to wake up and act, you can. I am not a nervous flyer at all, but I don't like the idea of being seriously out of it on a plane.

By the way, how much Ambien did you take? It comes in 5 and 10 mg tablets. People have different sensitivities, not necessarily related to body weight. My husband is a lot more susceptible to Ambien than I am, for example, although he outweighs me by quite a lot.

Whatever you decide to do, it is absolutely REQUIRED by common sense that you try it out before the flight.
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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 09:47 AM
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i, too, am scared to death to fly - i have taken ativan - i feel it is very strong and you have a hang over when the pill wears off, especially if you have not slept or not gotten enough sleep - ambien is a good sleeping pill but doesn't really calm your nerves, xanax is the way to go - i take 10m one hour before the flight leaves and i am cool, calm, and collected - even if you don't sleep - you will not be nervous at all and will enjoy your flight
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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 09:51 AM
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MizzEve,

I can totally empathize with your problem! I take 5 mg. of Valium about an hour into a long flight, and find that it takes the edge off just enough for me to relax but still function without feeling overly drugged.

I have used Valium successfully for about 20 years, but only for flying. During one really turbulent flight from Australia to Tahiti, it was a godsend. I agree with the other posters that any of these need to be tried BEFORE you fly, and always with the OK of your personal doctor.

Good luck!
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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 09:57 AM
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hi MizzEve,

I second the recommendation for Xanax.

For me it is not a fear of flying, it's getting thru 7-8 hours of flight with no smokes. I am a smoker and the anxiety I have not being able to smoke is very bad. (I knew when I almost risked lighting up in the bathroom against the fine, that it was time to approach my doctor).

He recommended Xanax and several patches and lollipops (for the oral fixation).

Like many others, I am not a fan of drugs for anything, but in this case only, I bend and take the xanax. I take it about a hour before I depart for the airport and then follow the instructions on how soon and how many. This also makes me slightly sleepy and I am able to get a good nights sleep on the plane.

As long as I don't take too much and drink plenty of water, I usually wake up feeling very refreshed and ready to go.

Xanax is prescribed for anxiety a million times a day and there is good reason. it works!

As always, follow your doctors orders and like everyone else, I recommend a trial run before the day of departure.

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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 10:10 AM
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I've posted similar answers before in response to other posts about fear of flying. This is quite a long post so feel free to skip it if you think I'm rambling

In my opinion it is far more worthwhile to tackle the root cause of the fear (and eliminate it for good) rather than taking drugs to limit feelings of anxiety.

Taking the drugs will not quell the feelings of stress and fear that invariably build up before the flight.

And in the (highly) unlikely event that something should happen during the flight, do you really want to be drugged up and unable to think or act clearly?

By all means, take the drugs with you as a "crutch", knowing that if things get really stressful you can take them. But work on addressing, understanding and coping with the fears that make travelling by plane so difficult for you.

I highly recommend visiting a site called www.fearofflyinghelp.com, run by a US pilot. It features a free fear of flying course that you can print out and follow, along with very useful message boards and, if you make a donation to the site, you can access other features such as live air-traffic control data and flight deck conversations.

The course looks at the causes of fear (and symptoms such as visualising disaster, thinking you're seeing "omens", catastrophising, and so on), then looks at the technical and physical aspects of flying, weather conditions, turbulence and so forth. The author stresses how safe flying is, and how planes are designed to stay in the air simply through the laws of physics.

I am speaking from experience because I used to suffer from extreme anxiety when flying - to the extent that they had to strap an oxygen mask on me one time, I was hyperventilating so badly. That was the final straw and I vowed to do something about it, which is when I happened upon the website I mentioned. A week after following the course I flew 10 hours to South Africa, then several domestic flights including on a tiny propellor plane, without the slightest hint of fear. I was so well informed that when we hit a rough patch of turbulence, I was the one reassuring my mother who is usually a calm flyer!!
I occasionally get a little stressed before a flight now, so I just reread a few pages of the site and feel reassured. I have happily hopped on and off many planes since then with no stress, it's made a huge difference to my holidays!! (no more dreading the flight home)
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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 10:16 AM
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My doctor prescribed halcion for me. We discussed Ambien but found my insurance did not cover it. I can take anywhere from 1/2 pill to 2 pills (not sure of the mg) depending the length of the flight. That way I can also determine if I just need "to take the edge off" or am trying to sleep.
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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 10:41 AM
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MizzEve-
I've tried Valium, OTC sleeping pills, and Xanax. I prefer Xanax. Valium does nothing for me and the sleeping pills are too hard to get out of- I feel groggy for the rest of the day.

Xanax works pretty fast (about 20 to 30 minutes after taking) and usually lasts me about 4 hours. If I take it with a glass of wine, I am usually in a peaceful slumber. If I don't, I just feel a lot less anxious. I am 5'6" and weigh 110 and I take a .5 mg dosage. I call my doc and her nurse will prescribe it for me- about 10 at a time. With my health insurance, it costs me less than $5.

I feel your pain! Good luck!
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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 11:15 AM
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There are various drugs that can be prescribed for "fear of flying" or just being able to relax and/or sleep especially on long flights.

While Valium and Librium (tranquilizers) have often had side effects (feeling groggy after they've worn off), many physicians now prescribe Ativan (Lorazepam is the generic) which usually doesn't have the after effect.

Xanax and Halcyon are also tranquilizers and generally get the best response for taking off the edge and sleeping.

Ambien on the other hand is specifically for sleeping.

All of the above come in various dosages and all should be tried prior to their need - take prior your flight to see your reaction and/or if they work for said purpose.

And remember, not all pills/drugs work the same on any two people. But if you feel you need something, do ask for it.

I would not recommend combining any of these meds with alcohol, regardless how low the dosage for any said pill.
 
Old Aug 19th, 2003, 11:42 AM
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I have taken prescription Ativan on a number of flights and have found it VERY helpful. I'm not sure if it is always prescribed in the same form, but mine were very small sublingual tablets (you place them under your tongue and let them dissolve vs, swallowing them whole). They are quite fast acting, I usually take two when I am in the departure lounge just before the flight and then take another if/when I feel the anxiety rising, and then usually another upon descent.

I have not suffered side effects from them, such as a hang over feeling or extreme drowsiness, they don't even put me to sleep but they definitely take the edge off as your doctor mentioned (I even have a drink while I am on them and it hasn't adversely impacted me).

For me the effect is like I am in full control of all of my faculties, and I can still imagine being afraid of flying for all of the reasons that I am, but I can't seem to get worked up about it like I do when I haven't taken the pills (crying, hyperventilation, really awful thoughts).

It has made the world of difference for me and after years of not flying, or having terrible experiences flying (and just think of the people around me!) I am actually flying now without the Ativan at all. I still take them with me in case the anxiety rises, but the last two flights I've taken I haven't needed them. I never thought I'd be able to fly without the aid of prescription drugs, but perhaps it just took getting through the flight calmly a few times (okay several times!) to help me get rid of my extreme fear.

I would encourage you to try it.
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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 11:42 AM
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As a registered nurse, I can't help becoming concerned about drug-taking unless it is absolutely necessary. I have seen patients have serious side effects from many of these drugs. If you must take something, try it at home before the flight and never mix pills with alcohol. Be particularly cautious if you are elderly or take other medications.

Fearofflying.com sounds like an excellent resource.
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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 12:07 PM
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Thanks for all of the responses. I'm going to give the Antivan a try at home in the next couple of days.

For what flight times to people usually take prescription drugs? In other words, do you only take Xanax, Activan, etc. if the flight is longer than a certain number of hours? Why?
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Old Aug 19th, 2003, 12:12 PM
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To KathrynT: While I agree that one shouldn't take prescription drugs without a doctor's advice, and that trying them first under controlled circumstances is a good idea, for some people taking prescription drugs for fear of flying is absolutely necessary.

As mentioned in my note above, I can now fly without the aid of drugs, but I would never have believed this possible a few years ago. If you do not suffer from fear of flying, it must be difficult to understand how someone could require drugs to get through a flight, but for me it was definitely a pre-requisite to even getting on a plane.
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