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Does Dextroamphetamine help minimize fatigue and combat sleepiness in commercial

and military pilots today?

The safe conduct of any flight is of utmost importance to any airline as well as to the flight-
deck and cabin crew. Combatting sleepiness and fatigue in pilots has been an ongoing issue
in many flights today (Reis, Mestre, Canhão, Gradwell, & Paiva, 2016, p. xx). A pilot’s
personal life often revolves around a set schedule that is dispatched by the airline at the
beginning of the month. This type of shift work combined with long flight times can lead to a
disruption in the circadian rhythm thereby, decreasing the effectiveness and reducing the
capabilities of the pilots to command the flight in a safe manner (Morris, Wiedbusch, &
Gunzelmann, 2018, p. xx). Using published studies from the European Journal of Operational
Research alongside Aerospace Medicine, Human Performance and Sleep Journal this
research summary will discuss the use of Dextroamphetamine (DEX) and its reliability and
consequences for both military and commercial pilots. DEX is a type of central nervous
system (CNS) is a drug used to treat patients with Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder.
DEX is classed as a stimulant for the brain because it helps you maintain focus and helps to
organize your tasks and improve listening skills (WebMD, n.d.). A study conducted
alongside the United States Air Force and the United States Army looks at the usage of DEX
for its pilots. It involved utilizing DEX and a placebo to be randomly administered to 28
pilots at a given time. These pilots were subjected to training days followed by a day of sleep
deprivation. Each pilot was given up to a maximum of 10mg of DEX or Placebo to study the
effects of sleep deprivation and how it affects performance of the pilots (Caldwell, Caldwell,
& Darlington, 2003, p. xx). Alongside the training days, pilots were also assessed both on a
UH-60 simulator and helicopter. The results showed that pilots were able to maintain
situational awareness, their flight capabilities have increased and were overall more accurate
than when DEX wasn’t used. Pilots who were administered the placebo showed signs of
deterioration both in their training phase and their flight test capabilities phase (Caldwell,
Caldwell, & Darlington, 2003, p. xx). To support this, another study showed that by using
DEX and similar drugs, it can greatly improve the flying ability of long haul commercial
pilots when flying routes in excess of twelve hours or more (O’Hagan, Issartel, McGinley, &
Warrington, 2018, p. xx). In both studies, the usage of DEX improved the abilities and
capabilities of both military and long haul airline pilots. By using DEX, pilots are able to
maintain their focus, have greater organizational and situational awareness thereby,
promoting a safe conduct of their respective mission or flight. The controlled use of DEX
greatly enhances the ability of pilots to stay awake without having any known side effects.
DEX has been proven to allow pilots to operate longer without sacrificing the safety of their
passengers or, the delay or complete failure of the mission.

References:
 Caldwell, J. A., Caldwell, J. L., & Darlington, K. K. (2003). Utility of
dextroamphetamine for attenuating the impact of sleep deprivation in pilots. Aviation,
Space, and Environmental Medicine, 74(11), 1125-1134. Retrieved from
http://docserver.ingentaconnect.com.ezproxy.auckland.ac.nz/deliver/connect/asma/00
956562/v74n11/s1.html?expires=1534886891&id=0000&titleid=8218&checksum=27
E95E2F22A36FD42DDE6B177BE9A651#popper:d59e165

 Morris, M. B., Wiedbusch, M. D., & Gunzelmann, G. (2018). Fatigue incident


antecedents, consequences, and aviation operational risk management
resources. Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance, 89(8), 708-716.
doi:10.3357/AMHP.5019.2018
 O’Hagan, A. D., Issartel, J., McGinley, E., & Warrington, G. (2018). A Pilot Study
Exploring the Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Analogue Measures of Pilot
Competencies. Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance, 89(7), 609-615.
doi:10.3357/amhp.5056.2018

 Reis, C., Mestre, C., Canhão, H., Gradwell, D., & Paiva, T. (2016). Sleep complaints
and fatigue of airline pilots. Sleep Science, 9(2), 73-77.
doi:10.1016/j.slsci.2016.05.003

 WebMD. (n.d.). Drugs & Medications. Retrieved from


https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-1636-9080/dextroamphetamine-
oral/dextroamphetamine-oral/details