PACDEFF Conference 2019

Addiction- The Disease - How pilots support pilots with the support of industry HIMS Australia Advisory Group  

Authors: FO Matthew Okeeffe and Dr Russel Brown 

HIMS provides a pathway within which pilots afflicted by the disease of Substance Abuse Disorder can be identified, treated and returned to duty in a safe and timely manner – saving lives, careers and enhancing flight safety. A program by pilots for pilots, assisting our colleagues suffering from Substance Abuse Disorders, by providing a safe structured pathway for ongoing recovery, enabling them to return to work.

In the general population approximately 7-10% of people have, or will be affected with Substance Abuse Disorder(s), whether alcohol and or drugs (illicit or prescription). Statistically amongst the worldwide pilot group, this is around 2-3%. Unfortunately, there is still a social stigma associated with Substance Abuse Disorders, as they are often viewed as some sort of character flaw or moral weakness. This means pilots are less likely to seek help. Further education is therefore needed, within industry and the wider public about the medical understanding of Substance Abuse Disorders.

Presently for pilots that have been diagnosed with alcohol dependency, there is no vehicle to help them demonstrate abstinence apart from scheduled blood tests and interviews with his/her DAME before being cleared to return to work. This can take in excess of 18 months with the threat of relapse increasing as time goes on; which invariably increases the time absent from work. The HIMS pathway however, has shown to greatly reduce these waiting times by proving that a structured, transparent, accountable peer support program works to support a pilot in recovery. 

By the end delegates understand how HIMS works, the benefits and how to connect pilots with resources to assist them in their recovery and journey back to the cockpit in a safe and timely manner.


Welfare Director Matthew O'Keeffe and Qantas Medical Officer Dr Russell Brown presented at the recent 2018 PACDEFF Conference in Sydney on 27 November 2018 on drug & alcohol treatment and recovery. The AFAP were proud sponsors of the two day conference which included an array of world-class presentations and workshops exploring human factors in the aviation industry. 

To view Matt and Dr Browns' presentation, please follow the below link;

PACDEFF Presentation


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