NURSE: Don't Take A Pill To Sleep On Planes Because You Might Get A Blood Clot And Die

I recently wrote about one of the best trans-Atlantic flights I’ve ever had.

The article was called, “I’ve Figured Out How To Fly First Class For The Price Of Coach! ;-)

I put the emoji in the headline to indicate the lighthearted tone of the story and to suggest that there was some trick to it. (Alas, I haven’t yet figured out how to fly in the First Class cabin for the price of coach. If you have, I’m all ears.)

The story was about how I took a pill before I got on the plane. It chronicled how, soon after I settled into my seat, the next 6 hours basically disappeared. I do have vague recollections of bodily readjustments, odd dreams, and my mouth hanging open like a grouper’s. But the next thing I remember is waking up in full daylight on the approach to Heathrow. Minutes later, when we landed in London, I was better rested after a red-eye than I have ever been. Way better rested than when I flew a sponsored trip to Germany in Business Class last year.

Among other things, my story revealed that people have strong feelings about drug use on planes.

First, it set off a debate about the best drugs to use on planes.

Some people, I learned, swear by Ambien. Others, Xanax. Others, Benadryl. Others, Tylenol PM. Others just recommend the extremely commonly available drug that airline employees walk the aisles of the plane pouring for free all night long.

Other readers quibbled with the timing of the pill ingestion. They recommended waiting until I was ensconced in my aeroplane seat, thus reducing the risk that the flight would be cancelled and I would spend the night passed out in the airport lounge.

Still other people were appalled at the idea taking a pill of any kind. (Most of these folks, presumably, prefer the liquid drugs that the flight attendants serve.)

I also heard from a Registered Nurse who said that taking a pill on an aeroplane is dangerous because you might get a blood clot and die:

I read your article on taking a pill while flying on a pill with horror. Taking medication to help you sleep while flying increases your risk of blood clots in your legs that can lead to death. The risk of getting a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is 1 in around 5000 and taking medication increases that risk.

Having read that, I feel the need to reiterate that I am in no way recommending that anyone else employ this upgrade strategy. I was merely presenting the (remarkable) results of a scientific experiment in which I was the guinea pig.

Some people also demanded to know what this pill was.

So I’ll tell you.

It is called “Ativan.”

I should explain that, the last time I took a pill on a plane was 25 years ago. The pill was called “Halcion.” It served its desired purpose on the plane, as I recall. But the next day, I felt like killing myself. I didn’t link this temporary bout of depression to the pill until I heard that some people who had taken Halcion had actually killed themselves. That was the last time I took that pill, or any pill, to sleep on a plane.

But after watching me stagger around Europe like a zombie for days after another recent red-eye, a friend took pity on me. The friend suggested that one Ativan would pack less of a punch than two drinks — or, for that matter, a Benadryl, which usually knocks me out cold. The friend also suggested that, after taking an Ativan — and unlike after taking other pills or booze — I would wake up whenever I needed to without a hangover.

I was actually familiar with Ativan. A dozen years ago, during a stressful period in which a then-Attorney-General-and-now-sort-of-friend-of-mine named Eliot Spitzer was keelhauling me for writing some scandalous emails on Wall Street, I was spending lots of nights staring at the ceiling. My being a zombie during the day wasn’t helping anyone, so I consulted a professional. The professional gave me a bottle of generic Ativan (Lorazepam). I chopped the pills in half and took half of one sometimes when I found myself staring at the ceiling.

So that’s why I wasn’t terrified about taking an Ativan.

To be clear:

I am not a medical professional. I am not a big drug-use advocate. I am not recommending that anyone take Ativan or any other drug — including alcohol — to sleep on planes or for any other purpose. These drugs are potentially addicting, have nasty potential side-effects (especially when mixed with other drugs like booze), and, according to the Registered Nurse above, may cause blood clots that give you heart attacks or kill you.

You have been warned!

And now excuse me while I call up my medical professional and refill my bottle of Ativan…


SEE ALSO: I’ve Figured Out How To Fly First Class For The Price Of Coach! ;-)

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