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  #1  
Old 08-23-11, 10:04 AM
of_two_minds of_two_minds is offline
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pilots and amphetamines

I've read that military pilots are given amphetamines. For example, a Stealth Bomber mission can be a 24 hour trip with no stops.

Is anyone familiar with how this works? I'm curious how they're prescribed and controlled, and what kind of testing a pilot goes through to determine how he'll react to the meds (prior to climbing into the cockpit), etc.

Along these lines, we watched an air show over the weekend and all I could think about was the intense focus and concentration the pilots must have.

Disclaimer: I'm not a pilot, nor in the military. I'm just a 44 year old guy who still thinks jet fighters are cool.
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Old 08-23-11, 10:31 AM
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Re: pilots and amphetamines

Actually the majority of pilots that I know are given provigil -a wakefulness promoting agent used in narcolepsy.
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Old 08-23-11, 06:38 PM
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Re: pilots and amphetamines

They have been issued through the flight surgeon with command level approval when the need for long duration missions can't be avoided. The US {may} have largely ended this discretionary practice after the first gulf war.

They were discretionary during combat missions, but largely shelved. The issue the flight surgeons and had to deal with was fatigue vs recovery. It's fine to provide low dose amphetamines and schedule the pilots to take them at certain points during a flight. The problem is what do you do with the pilot when he's landed and de-fueled?

To make sure they got a decent rest, they were given Ambien, but that brings the other problem of timing.

With 24 hours in a day, and 6 hours sleep being about the minimum for the level of attention they need, amphetamines are a very short term solution. They work for the single mission, but not for regular schedules.
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Old 08-23-11, 06:54 PM
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Re: pilots and amphetamines

There was actually a case in which a military pilot targeted and bombed men that weren't the enemy on accident and said it was the fault of the amphetemines. I believe it. He knows he would have never been in that situation or done that if it hadn't been for the amphetemines.
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/19/us...ots-pills.html


lack of sleep played an important role in the situation in the article above;

"Amphetamines and tranquilizers -- ''go pills'' and ''no-go pills'' -- are considered useful tools for a modern American military that likes to fight at night, given its technological superiority in finding targets in the dark, and to an Air Force that must order its pilots to fly longer missions from fewer overseas bases."

"Asked to comment on the current case, scientists outside the military who research the use of amphetamines say it is impossible to know whether Dexedrine muddled the pilots' thinking without knowing how tired they were at the time, whether they had been taking the drug for many days in a row, and how strongly their bodies responded to it."

Last edited by tired1823; 08-23-11 at 07:09 PM..
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Old 08-23-11, 07:16 PM
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Re: pilots and amphetamines

Seriously? I always thought I couldn't be an air force pilot because I'm medicated.
Now all I have to do is pass that physical.
...and brush up on some math skills.

I agree, jet fighters are seriously cool.
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Old 08-23-11, 07:53 PM
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Re: pilots and amphetamines

Sorry you can't bring your own medication from home, it doesn't go over too well....

Quote:
Originally Posted by fracturedstory View Post
Seriously? I always thought I couldn't be an air force pilot because I'm medicated.
Now all I have to do is pass that physical.
...and brush up on some math skills.

I agree, jet fighters are seriously cool.
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Old 08-23-11, 08:01 PM
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Re: pilots and amphetamines

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Originally Posted by Retromancer View Post
Sorry you can't bring your own medication from home, it doesn't go over too well....

You can be given drugs but not bring in drugs you have gone through an agonizingly long time to get cleared for? Yeah that makes loads of sense.
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Old 08-23-11, 08:46 PM
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Re: pilots and amphetamines

Provigil is given to pilots on long missions.

And Fracutred, you can't bring in drugs, but they will give you the drugs that you have prescriptions for. The military can't deny you things that you medically require. Lawsuits would ensue en-masse. This is America!

It's not the best solution, giving pilots stimulants. But I'm sure (or rather, hope) that there have been studies that demonstrate that they are useful!
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Old 08-23-11, 08:55 PM
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Re: pilots and amphetamines

Quote:
Originally Posted by of_two_minds View Post
I've read that military pilots are given amphetamines. For example, a Stealth Bomber mission can be a 24 hour trip with no stops.

Is anyone familiar with how this works? I'm curious how they're prescribed and controlled, and what kind of testing a pilot goes through to determine how he'll react to the meds (prior to climbing into the cockpit), etc.

Along these lines, we watched an air show over the weekend and all I could think about was the intense focus and concentration the pilots must have.

Disclaimer: I'm not a pilot, nor in the military. I'm just a 44 year old guy who still thinks jet fighters are cool.
I know that British (RAF) pilots were given amphetamines (amphetamine sulphate in tablet form) to promote wakefulness/vigilance/concentration etc for overnight bombing raids on the continent during ww2. I've read as well that infantry soldiers on both sides, allied and axis, were given them for keeping alert in combat situations, etc. Not surprisingly, soldiers given them complained that they disrupted their sleep and often made them irritable/grumpy after they had taken them.

It wouldn't surprise me if stimulants were still used by modern fighter pilots for keeping alert and on-the-ball for long missions.Though I suspect that if modern jet pilots were to use a stimulant, they might opt for a newer drug like modafinil instead of the older amphetamine -type preparations.
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Old 08-23-11, 11:25 PM
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Re: pilots and amphetamines

Quote:
Originally Posted by of_two_minds View Post
I've read that military pilots are given amphetamines. For example, a Stealth Bomber mission can be a 24 hour trip with no stops.

Is anyone familiar with how this works? I'm curious how they're prescribed and controlled, and what kind of testing a pilot goes through to determine how he'll react to the meds (prior to climbing into the cockpit), etc.

Along these lines, we watched an air show over the weekend and all I could think about was the intense focus and concentration the pilots must have.

Disclaimer: I'm not a pilot, nor in the military. I'm just a 44 year old guy who still thinks jet fighters are cool.
I read an article about this once. I think any fighter pilot can go to the flight surgeon and ask for amphetamines. They are typically known as "go pills" in the military and are prescribed as 5mg dexedrine tablets.

It's kind of controversial because pilots often don't have the required 12 hours between missions. When the pilots bring this up to their superior officers they are told that they can either take the go pills or they could be grounded (potentially ruining their careers). The pilots have little choice about whether or not they take the "go pills"

I wish I could find the article I read about this in. I remember it being a pretty fascinating read.

edit: I also remember reading about a crash involving a canadian air force pilot where amphetamine was believed to be a factor but the canadian air force denied that the crash was related to dexedrine.
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Old 08-24-11, 11:36 AM
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Re: pilots and amphetamines

I seem to recall hearing that amphetamines were a big part of the Nazi war plan, they wanted to perfect the drug to create super-alert soldiers that needed very little rest, etc. Hitler mainlined the stuff so that he wouldn't have to sleep and it eventually made him nuts.
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Old 08-24-11, 01:40 PM
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Re: pilots and amphetamines

Quote:
Originally Posted by siglerja View Post
I seem to recall hearing that amphetamines were a big part of the Nazi war plan, they wanted to perfect the drug to create super-alert soldiers that needed very little rest, etc. Hitler mainlined the stuff so that he wouldn't have to sleep and it eventually made him nuts.
Yeah I read somewhere that Hitler might have won the war if he didn't do so much methamphetamine. Between amphetamine psychosis and just not sleeping for days at a time he went pretty crazy.
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Old 08-24-11, 06:22 PM
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Re: pilots and amphetamines

Quote:
Originally Posted by siglerja View Post
I seem to recall hearing that amphetamines were a big part of the Nazi war plan, they wanted to perfect the drug to create super-alert soldiers that needed very little rest, etc. Hitler mainlined the stuff so that he wouldn't have to sleep and it eventually made him nuts.
Crap, now I'll have to dig up the article.

The one experiment that sticks with me is a mixture of cocaine, meth, and heroin. The poor sods quite literally quick marched until they died.
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Old 08-24-11, 07:17 PM
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Re: pilots and amphetamines

I would encourage the readers of this thread to check out this well-written, fascinating book:

On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine


One of the interesting insights in it is that during WWII increasing soldier stamina drove the handing out of amphetamine less than the improving the morale of soldiers. Soldiers on amphetamine were motivated, happier soldiers -- not necessarily better soldiers.
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Old 01-29-14, 01:01 AM
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Re: pilots and amphetamines

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