Pursue HIMS or wait it out?
Answered By AOPA

I am just re-starting my private pilot venture after a 10-year hiatus and I’ve hit a snag. I am currently taking an FAA-approved SSRI and have been for almost 6 months. It’s low dosage (20 mg), my only history with SSRIs and I am stable on it.  

I also happen to be an Air Force air traffic controller (currently DNIC due to the medication). At the 6 month mark I will be able to get a waiver to continue controlling while on the medication, though I also intend to come off the meds at some point in the near future. I’d love to now, but my AF flight doctor prefers to leave his patients on the medication for at least a year before tapering them off. 

My question is: Should I pursue an SI through the HIMS process or just wait until I come off the meds (+90 days) and just go the normal route of seeing an AME and reporting that I have taken the medication in the past?  Which process is easier/faster?

I was really hoping to start flying in September, but given these circumstances, I’m doubting that will be the case. 

Any information would be helpful!! Thank you! 
18 Replies
AOPA Staff Answer
Hi Kristen,

For an individual such as yourself, who wants to fly for pleasure, I agree with Ronald and Bruce, if you qualify for Basic Med, that would be a great route for you to pursue. Under Basic Med there are no HIMS evaluations or FAA pre-approvals. It would not only save you time but the cost of the evaluation as well. This would also allow you to continue to work with your physician and make the decision to either stay on the SSRI or come off it, based on your personal needs, not because of the FAA approval process. 

The process is easy, have a physical by a state licensed physician (it does not need to be an AME), complete the online assessment course and print a certificate of completion. The online assessment is renewed every two years and the physical exam every four years. Here is a link to the Basic Med website  https://www.aopa.org/advocacy/pilots/medical/basicmed

If you need any further assistance please contact us at 1-800-872-2672 #3
Thanks Bruce, I agree with you and that is my plan is to pursue a SI and move forward with my class 3 medical.

Lee, if you can substantiate 5 years of sobriety and your State Board of medicine evaluations say "sustained recovery" even from the incredibly   complex HIMS point of view, you should be able to obtain this SI after 6 months stable on the approved SSRI, with only a HIMS Psychiatry and a HIMS neuropsychology evaluation.  then it's legit "one time" and onto basic med.

They will look very closely however at the rehab record(s) and demand documentation of your continued recovery activities.

I also agree that addiction is a life long disease process and requires daily treatment to maintain sobriety. I love that I am sober and I love to fly and once I was aware of the medical issues the further I got into flying I want to get this fixed. I believe my best option is to pursue a class 3 medical with a SI. 
Thanks for the great information. My goal is to get a SI, but this option is interesting if I can do the same through BasicMed cheaper. I don’t want to be in violation and I’m not flying PIC until this is resolved. 
The former. And I can't/won't post much more.  The agency has plenty of concern over depressed aviators who may or may not have recurrent disease,  who also have incompletely rehabbed alcohol dependency which even under the best of circumstance has an 16% relapse rate. Despite the huge expensive task,  I do not think we should be encouraging aviators to circumvent full evaluation.  You can get the full evaluation and never apply if adverse.

I have evaluated many. some should NEVER be in the air. And all will out during the accident investigation. 

Lee, YMMV.  These are lifelong issues.