Drug Violations and Aviation Accidents


Research has been undertaken to understand the relationship between drug violation rates and the risk of accident involvement in aviation employees. This involved gathering ten years worth of data from the years 1995 to 2005 from the FAA and other reasources. This research is part of the extensive program to determine the effects of drug abuse in the work environment, especially in aviation.


This first table shows the percentage of accidents where the pilot was under the influence or had drugs in their system at the time of the accident compared the the number of staff that has been in an accident without the influence of drugs. The illustration shows that different occupation has a different number of people being tested, however the general trend is that drug use has a small part to play in aviation. This may be because drug use among people in important roles in aviation are low.

Occupation Cases Positive (%) Cases Negative (%) Mean
Flight Crewmember 0.5 99.5 218
Flight Attendants 5.0 95 159.5
Ground Security Coordinators 4.0 96 62
Aircraft Maintenance 2.5 97.5 542

Random Testing confirms that drug usage is low among aviation employees and that different roles have a percentage of workers that abuse drugs or alcohol, however the general trend of the types of drugs related to the percentage is similar in terms of ratio. These first two graphs are just to give a quick general idea of the rates of abuse of drugs within the aviation industry

Occupation Random Tests Positive (%) Random Tests Negative(%) Mean
Flight Crewmember 0.1 99.9 36576.5
Flight Attendants 0.4 90.6 40856
Ground Security Coordinators 0.6 99.4 8979
Aircraft Maintenance 1.0 99.9 58507.5

This final table shows the correlation between the amount of people in the workplace that have been caught out by random drug testing compared to the amount of people who have been tested positive for drugs after an accident. From the data the estimated odds ratio of accident involvement associated with drug violations was 2.90

Occupation Case Positive (%) Random Tests Positive (%) Mean Standard Deviation (S.D)
Flight Crewmember 0.5 0.1 17.5 5.2
Flight Attendants 5.0 0.4 159.5 17.6
Ground Security Coordinators 4.0 0.6 64.5 10
Aircraft Maintenance 2.5 1.0 592.5 80.1

Study Scope

The study scope for this report is too broad as it accounts for almost all major airlines, commuter air carriers and taxi operators etc operating in the USA. However this report does not include any private fliers or people associated in the private industry. This analysis is too broad to have a accurate range as there are too many variables that may affect the results, for example the tests were not administered themselves and they are relying on a third party for the results and only the commercial aviation sector has been examined and private sector has not been examined at all gives the research some bias.


During 1995 through 2005, the FAA recorded a total of 4,977 post-accident drug tests and 1,129,922 random drug tests, which detected 91 and 7,211 drug violations. These results were taken from commercial aviation companies all over USA.

The tests were conducted by laboratories certified by the US department of Health and Human Services, although no specific demographic group was chosen to conduct this study, all the test subjects play a role in the aviation industry, especially people involved in the safety-sensitive functions. The data is based on two programs which are random drug testing conducted by companies and drug testing conducted as a result of an accident.

There are 5 variables in this research, each variable represents each occupation that is safety-related to aviation. The research tries to show the correlation between drug abuse among the general population and its effects on human performance while they are doing a safety-related task. It categorises the 5 main occupations that are directly connected to the aviation industry.


1.Guohua Li, C. 2011. Drug Violations and Aviation Accidents: Findings from the U.S. Mandatory Drug Testing Programs. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 106 (7), p. 1287. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3391734/ [Accessed: 20 Sep 2013].
2.Leftseat.com. 2013. FAA Medical Certification / Alcohol / Substance / Drugs. [online] Available at: http://www.leftseat.com/AME/health4pilots/ [Accessed: 20 Sep 2013].

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