The Triton


Comments on mood-altering drugs in yachting


Some other thoughts from captains and crew about mood-altering drugs in yachting.

When the owners and charterers think it’s a big enough problem, they’ll have us deal with it. They have the same issues in their businesses.

Funny thing; I am filling in the survey after a hectic day. I answered that none of the crew had taken drugs to alter their mental state due to stress. And we all just ripped the scab off the lid of a beer bottle each.

As a group, I’d say yachtsmen are a healthier group than the general populace. We have to be. We can’t go running to a doctor at the first sniffle.

The issue is usually buried until it becomes a problem. Crew on anti-depressants should not seek employment offshore, period.

It is a shame, but in our society today we are taught that there is a prescription for anything. Stress can be best handled by maintaining an active and healthy body and doing something you are really happy doing. If you are going to go around being unhappy about something, do something to change your situation and be proud of yourself for doing so. If you choose to use mood-altering meds to “fix” something, get out of yachting. It must not be the right thing for you.

There is a big difference from a drink at the end of the day or a Xanax once in awhile and the cocktail of mood drugs U.S. kids seem to start on at age 10 or even younger.

As medical person in charge, I need to know of all medications and some supplements that both my crew and guests are on. The guests have the option of providing me with their doctor’s contact info, which is verified before departure. This includes over-the-counter medications, especially when in other countries because the laws are different. For example, codeine is sold over the counter in the Bahamas, Turks and BVIs. Most British countries sell Co-Codomol, which is 20 mg of codeine. Take a few of those and you will be altered.

Remember, too much sugar, caffeine or energy drinks will also alter the mind. So does fatigue, and it’s a lot more commonly abused and prescribed by more captains and more owners than drugs are.

It is not a problem in workplaces that test often. Too bad everyone likes to complain about it, not enough to institute a large scale random testing regime. What if a brokerage house said all of our charter-managed boats get tested monthly. That would cull the herd.

Oh well. I remember testing every other Friday and Saturday night at midnight. Gave them a heads up. Go home or test.

Privacy is important, but how am I supposed to properly address, manage and potentially care for a crew member if I do not know what special medications that they may be taking? Tough line but hopefully open communication lines will yield pertinent information.

There are so many issues that can crop up on a vessel: Wind picks up and the boat starts rolling. The anchor starts dragging. A mooring line breaks and the boats drifts away from the dock. A generator shuts down and you are in the dark. The list is endless. I need everyone to participate and support the other crew in an emergency so that everyone is safe.

Personally I feel that working on board yachts with so much responsibility for the safety of others as well as the need to be fully aware, attentive and cognizant at all times, that any crew who are in need of any mind-altering drugs should not be working on board any vessel. As far as stress is concerned, in yachting, if you can’t cope without the need for a drug to help you then you should not do this sort of work.

I’ve been doing this a long time and never needed a drug to help me cope nor have the majority of good professional crew and captains I know. Many crew/captains use alcohol excessively, often as a stress reliever, however, this is just as bad as a drug and it very often causes problems on board.

I don’t believe either is acceptable for crew. Once again, if one cannot naturally cope then they are not cut out for this type of work.

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About Lucy Chabot Reed

Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher and founding editor of The Triton.

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