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Tricyclic Antidepressants Found in Pilots Fatally Injured in Civil Aviation Accidents

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Prevalence of tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) has not been explored in pilots. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) aviation accident and the Federal Aviation Administration's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI) toxicology and medical certification databases were searched for pilots fatally injured in aviation accidents. During 1990–2012, CAMI received bio‐samples of pilots from 7037 aviation accidents. Of these, 2644 cases were positive for drugs. TCAs were present in 31. TCA blood concentrations ranged from therapeutic to toxic levels. The NTSB determined that the use of drugs and ethanol as the probable cause or contributing factor in 35% (11 of 31) of the accidents. None of the 31 pilots reported the use of TCAs during their aviation medical examination. The prevalence of TCAs in aviators was less than 0.5% (31 of 7037 cases). There is a need for aviators to fully disclose the use of medications at the time of their medical examination.
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Keywords: Federal Aviation Administration; National Transportation Safety Board; aviation accident investigation; forensic science; pilot fatalities; toxicology; tricyclic antidepressants

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2017

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