Safety topic from Episode 3

Drug and alcohol testing

The lowdown

Already happening at an aerodrome near you ... Drug & alcohol testing by CASA officers can happen anywhere within an aerodrome testing area.  Remember that anyone performing, or available to perform safety sensitive aviation activities (SSAAs) other than a passenger, can be tested. 

Of course, no one can be forced to undergo testing, but it’s not really optional either. CASA rules are quite clear, that: “Refusing or failing to give a body sample may constitute a prosecutable offence. Further, anyone failing or refusing to give a body sample must stop performing or being available to perform an applicable SSAA. Failure to do so may result in a criminal charge.”

Alcohol testing is done via a breath sample and drug testing requires oral fluid samples. The problem is, that there are some common over-the-counter drugs that appear on the banned substance list. So whilst we, as pilots, might be completely responsible with regard to our intake of alcohol and known prohibited drugs, we may inadvertently be exposing ourselves to a failed drug test and its heavy consequences if we don’t pay careful attention to what over the counter medications we may be taking.

CASA cannot provide advice in relation to what medications you can or cannot take or advice on quantities. Medications and combinations of medications affect individuals in different ways. Your doctor, pharmacist or Designated Aviation Medical Examiner (DAME) is the person to seek advice from. 

All pilots have a responsibility to know what medications they are taking and whether or not they could affect their fitness for SSAA duties, or if it contains a testable substance.

CASA will be testing for the presence of alcohol, opiates, cannabis, amphetamine-type stimulants, and cocaine.  It is important to remember that popular over the counter medications such as certain pain relievers and antihistamines can contain levels of these substances that will trigger a positive test result.

If you, as a pilot feel the need to take these types of medications, then you probably shouldn’t be in control of an aeroplane or be airside at an airport at all.