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Success Rates at an Air Force Pilot Academy and Its Relation to Methylphenidate Use

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BACKGROUND: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. The most common treatment for this disorder is methylphenidate, which is a disqualifying medication for flight. Candidates with previous use of methylphenidate are not necessarily disqualified from the Israeli Air Force (IAF) flight academy.

METHODS: Flight cadets from 12 consecutive flight courses who have used methylphenidate at least once in the past were identified according to their medical records. The graduation ratio of cadets with previous use of methylphenidate was compared with that of the rest of the cadets. A comparison was also made with regard to the causes of disqualification from the flight course. Statistical significance was assessed using the Fischer Test.

RESULTS: Among the 90 flight cadets who have used methylphenidate, only 2 (2.2%) successfully graduated from the IAF flight academy. Among the 2983 flight cadets who have no history of methylphenidate use, 461 (15.4%) successfully graduated. We found no significant differences in the disqualification causes between the two groups.

CONCLUSION: The IAF flight academy graduation rate was meaningfully and significantly lower among cadets who reported previous use of methylphenidate. The study design, however, limits the inference of causal relationship.

Sarfati S, Nakdimon I, Tsodyks J, Assa A, Gordon B. Success rates at an air force pilot academy and its relation to methylphenidate use. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2019; 90(9):788–791.

Keywords: ADHD; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; methylphenidate; pilots

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2019

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  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

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