2013–2017 Update to Drug Use Trends in Aviation

​This safety research report provides updated information regarding trends in the prevalence of over-the-counter, prescription, and illicit drugs identified by toxicology testing of flying pilots who died in aviation accidents during the years 2013 through 2017. The data for this update were obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Civil Aerospace Medical Institute’s Forensic Sciences Laboratory toxicology database and the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) aviation accident database. This update did not assess the likelihood of a pilot’s impairment in any of the accidents.

Safety issues identified during this research update include:

  1. ​the ongoing need for the FAA to publicize—for pilots’ use—information about marijuana given its decriminalization in several states and its unchanged classification as an illicit drug per federal law; and 
  2. the continued need for the FAA to conduct research to assess the relationship between drug use and accident risk.

As a result of this safety research report, the NTSB makes one new recommendation to the FAA. The NTSB also reiterates one recommendation to the FAA and classifies one recommendation to the FAA.