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I have a series of flights ahead of me and I have a fear of flying. I usually drink in excess prior to boarding. I have had people recommend pills. I have also heard a mix of opinions on which option is more healthy. Which option is considered to be least harmful to the health?

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Consult a doctor. They'd be able to give you the best advice on whether it is okay for you to take any particular medicine. –  Ankur Banerjee Sep 29 '12 at 18:23
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Alcohol will screw your liver, pills will do the same to your kidneys. The question is, which one you love more, kidneys or liver? –  MeNoTalk Sep 30 '12 at 15:28
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Alcohol is a naturally occurring substance and does not damage your liver in reasonable amounts. Since fear of flying comes in many degrees, it's not trivial to judge how much alcohol would be necessary to overcome it and whether that's dangerous. Alcohol dis-inhibits already in low amounts. –  MSalters Oct 1 '12 at 11:56
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@Vass: That is NOT healthy. I was thinking 0.5 liters of beer at most. That's similar to what our ancestors would consume when eating overripe fruits, and what adult livers can handle. –  MSalters Oct 2 '12 at 13:30
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@Vass I agree with MSalters, that is wayy too much to be sustainable healthily. You should try and switch to some of the other solutions provided in the answers. Phew! Take care of yourself man! –  Aditya Somani May 23 at 2:16
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6 Answers 6

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If you have no specific medical condition that would be exacerbated by anti-anxiety drugs, I'd say you should at least try them to see if they work well for you. Most of them don't have serious side effects if you don't take too many, or too often.

Excessive drinking has well-documented negative effects, among them the possibility of violent behaviour that can get you into really bad trouble (as in: gigantic fines/damages, or even jail time) on a plane.

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Others have already provided good answers but I feel there are some facts that need to be stated a little more forcefully. Alcohol is accepted in many societies for cultural/historical reasons (and, living in such a society, I like it as much as the next guy) but it's pretty bad all around. Pills (at least those that are classified as medication) will have a much more controlled effect and dosage and should have been evaluated for their risk/benefit balance. Do consult a physician but as far as toxicity is concerned pills win hands down on alcohol, it's not even a close call.

And two shots of whisky an hour is really a lot. If you can walk and speak normally after a long-haul flight at this regimen, chances are you consume quite a lot of alcohol even when you're not flying and that's not good for your health either.

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Drinking a lot of alcohol before or during a flight is not a healthy option. It interferes with sleep and exacerbates jet lag. Anti-anxiety medication might be a good idea (check with your doctor), and there are clinically accepted non-drug anti-anxiety techniques that a psychologist can teach you.

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Take a melatonin pill. It's a natural substance your brain makes to make you sleepy, specially in the dark. Use it to just sleep through the flight. Two pills allowed me to sleep through a nine hour flight from Los Angeles to Vienna on a plane packed with noisy Russian kids. Melatonin should be readily available at a convenience shop at any decent airport. Just don't overuse the stuff, or else your brain stops making it naturally, and you won't be able to sleep well.

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And note that people with certain conditions (autoimmune problems, pregnancy etc) should be consulting with their doctor first. –  Mark Mayo Oct 12 '12 at 20:44
    
"nine hour flight from Los Angeles to Vienna" - surely it's more like 14 hours! –  e100 Jan 8 '13 at 12:38
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Talk with your doctor. Airplane Insomnia is generally a recognized condition and many plans cover meds under the insomnia codes. I have many co-workers that use sleep aids for long flights -- many of them on a fairly regular basis.

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The question was about anxiety, not insomnia. Your answer is good, but applied to the wrong question. –  jetset May 23 at 1:38
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I would suggest you look for another solution.

Deal with the root cause instead and go on a fear-of-flying course. In the UK, where Vass is, both Virgin and British Airways run regular one-day courses at major airports, which include a short flight.

I went on the BA one some years ago and it was certainly money well spent as far as I am concerned; I'd given up flying completely. The Virgin course looks very similar in scope these days; previously they used simulators rather than an actual flight.

Senior pilots, cabin crew and a psychologist delivered the course as short lectures with time for questions and then small group talks. They certainly covered every angle I could think of: the science, safety measures, procedures (e.g. why planes reduce thrust after takeoff), effects on the body, mental and physical relaxation techniques.

In fact there was a questionnaire to fill in a couple of weeks in advance in which you could raise any particular issues you wanted to ensure were covered.

I hadn't been on a plane in years so getting on the flight in itself was a success. All the staff went on the plane and I think there was at least one for each 2 rows, so plenty of support. There was a continuous commentary from boarding to exit (about 45 mins) provided by an extra pilot on the flight deck, which explained all the manoeuvres in advance, e.g. "You will now hear a clunk as wheels retract "; "We've been cleared to turn 30 degrees right and go up to 10,000ft, so this will start in about 10 secs, we'll do it in two stages and it'll take about 2 mins".

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wow, cool info, what did the course do? could you ask questions? –  Vass Oct 5 '12 at 13:19
    
Added some more info; see also links to courses, they provide quite a lot of detail. –  e100 Oct 5 '12 at 14:16
    
I case someone has interest, TAP has a similar course in Lisbon. It's call "ganhar asas" / "Getting wings" More information here: tapportugal.com/Info/pt/sobre-tap/ACompanhia/ganhar-asas/… –  nsn May 23 at 8:05
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