Chances at obtaining a TS clearance (drug)

Just wondering what my chances are on obtaining a Top Secret Clearance, so here it goes.

I’ve held a Secret clearance since 2004. In 2012, I was going through a tough time at work and had trouble sleeping. My friend (no longer associate with) gave me 4 Valium pills to help aid my sleep. I took these 4 pills between 2012 - 2015. I did not have a prescription for said pills.

In 2016, I took a polygraph for another agency. I blew an inconclusive, but admitted to taking these 4 pills. On my Secret clearance renewal, this came up. I temporarily had my Secret clearance suspended for a month. I had a probable cause drug test and passed (of course). They issued me letter of inquiry and I answered all their questions accurately. They reinstated my Secret clearance.

Fast forward to 2019, I’m interviewing for a job with a small agency, non-DoJ/DHS/DoD, and it requires a Top Secret clearance. Should I have any concern that I’ll be denied a clearance?

You should have concern, yes. But, how much concern will be based on the agency and their rules for adjudication. Some have zero tolerance for certain things.

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Ed, thanks for the quick reply.

The uncertainty is definitely unsettling. I would hope that all agencies would take into account mitigating factors for adjudication of a clearance. I know the DEA and other agencies have a strict no drugs ever policy. But isnt that for “suitability”, not clearance?

The problem is that these mitigating factors seem very subjective. What constitutes a long time since last useage, is it 2 years? 5 years? How do they weigh using a schedule 1 or 2 drug (hard drugs) v. a schedule 4/5? I had 2 of my supervisors write a positive letter to our security office, does that usually make a difference? So many unknowns…

They do all take mitigating factors into account but somethings can’t be mitigated for some agencies.

Keep in mind, your use, as you describe it, shows use over three years ending only about four years ago. This means that you had plenty of time to reconsider. The fact that you were already cleared and should have recognized that this is an issue doesn’t help your case. The number of that this went on also shows that you had time to seek other sources of sleep aids and did not do so.

You should also recognize that the TS investigation can have a negative effect on your Secret clearance.

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Thanks for the information.

That leads me to a new question. Since i already have a Secret and interviewing for a job that requires a Top Secret, do I need to successfully obtain the TS before I EOD at the new job? I would hate to leave my current job and start working at the new place only to have to get booted for not being able to get the TS clearance.

Also, its my understanding that interim clearances are only for people who do not have any current security clearance. Therefore, this wouldnt apply for me.

Any info is much appreciated.

I don’t know if you can get an interim TS while holding a secret. You need to be very sure of your TS before leaving your current position.

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Your long period of holding said drugs defeats the “period of increased stress and tension, not likely to repeat itself.” So it is hard to say a divorce or loss of a family member put you into a terrible emotional state. Still, it has been 3 years since you used them and you already spoke to the issue and were reinstated. Since the standards for adjudication are technically the same…I would say the government feels you can be trusted with classified material. If the position requires a Poly you likely face questions concerning sticking to the letter of the agreement. As Ed stated, you can have negative ramifications if the TS is denied, causing a revocation of the Secret as well. But since it was adjudicated already…meaning someone made the decision to trust you again…I say the path is open.

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Thanks for chiming in Amber. It sounds like you have a lot of experience in this arena.

If the TS has the potential to cause a revocation of my current Secret clearance, does that mean I won’t be able to start the TS clearance level job until I actually have the TS clearance in hand?

I hope this is the case. Worst case scenario is that I leave my current Secret clearance job and start at the TS clearance job without officially having been adjudicated for the TS clearance. Then, subsequent be let go for failing to get the TS clearance.

Amazing how a stupid lack of judgement can make things so damn complex years later!

Subjects misunderstand that there is no magic time frame for mitigation.

Back to the original question. The good thing is your drug use was mitigated by someone while you had a security clearance. The bad thing is you demonstrated that you will abuse prescription drugs while possessing a clearance instead of seeking proper medical treatment. This will haunt you because we have so many clearance holders that know better than to do use someone else’s prescription drugs.

Some agencies are more forgiving because you probably don’t have access to certain sensitive materials and/or you are in a workplace where you can be monitored. Many agencies don’t have that luxury because of the nature of the work or the smaller workforce.

Let’s be clear - “one” stupid lack of judgement moment can place you in a vulnerable position or cause the release of information we are trying to protect. You had a clearance and chose to self-medicate. You chose to not report your self-medication until you had a polygraph. You only have two years since your last admitted misuse of prescription drugs, under the threat of a polygraph. This was all because of your work stress, presumably your classified work.

Now-mitigating factors - you admitted the use-though during a polygraph. You have removed yourself from “a” source of non-prescribed drugs. You passed an almost random drug test. You’ll probably promise to never misuse prescription drugs. That is about all I can come up with for now.

I am not trying to be harsh or mean. Just trying to help you look at your issue from the security POV.


I know this is a “crystal ball” type of question, but knowing the facts presented, mitigating circumstances, timeline of usage, etc… Do you think I get the clearance? Y/N?

If it were MY career on the line, I would not try for the TS. There are too many questions and too many risks.

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I would certainly want several years to pass showing the issue never resurfaced. BI makes a good point. A “one of” situation can be used to blackmail a clearance holder. Any conduct that could cause a suspension or revocation can be used against us. I think there are definitely a few strong items in your corner, mostly an adjudicator felt you would not repeat and granted the clearance. Though the standards are technically the same…IMHO, a TS scrutiny takes it a higher level of clarity, meaning some that would clear Secret…would not get the benefit of the doubt for TS. There have been threads where folks previously mitigated an issue, were granted or regranted clearance…only to lose it at a re-investigation concerning the already cleared up and admitted bad decision. I fond that in bad faith but it pops up enough that most of us have seen it here. I had a similar issue for the first TS SCI at this compound, and I sweat bullets hoping to make it through with complete honesty. After two Poly’s I was cleared, and 5 years later I recleared. In 2 years or so I will once again sit for Poly’s. It would be heartbreaking to have the same honest data reviewed and lose my eligibility. 13 years after the fact, and after complete honesty on SF86’s and 4 Poly’s total, two each time. But it does seem some folks experience that. With all my info on multiple SF86’s, and a Poly record I am confident nobody could blackmail me on the topic. But that fear is always there.

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I think it’s a big risk, but I am going to proceed and interview for the job. My key takeaway is don’t leave my current place of employment until I have the TS in hand. Thankfully, in the job announcement, it says the final job offer is contingent on a background and security investigation results. This is really important because the job would require a relocation.

I’m not too concerned about a TS background affecting my current Secret clearance. My Secret was adjudicated in mid 2017. This was after the whole suspension, drug test, letter of inquiry, and subsequent reinstatement. Besides this poor lack of judgement, I’m about straight and narrow as they come.

Hi. Just wondering what your take on this situation might be…

A 35 year old friend got curious in 2016 about MJ after their state legalized it . never did any schedule I or II substances before that. Got sick. Experimented again in mid 2017 and got sick again. Felt bad about doing it anyway afterwards due to being a federal employee. Lapse in judgment clearly.

Been close to 3.5 years now. Has to fill out the forms for re-investigation.

In your opinion is this person likely to.loose their job? This is a Tier II Public Trust position…

It always depends. Tier 2 is a public trust position, meaning you are employed by the feds in some manner. This also means you know you are not to use marijuana products as the feds have beaten that to death these last four + years.

Also, you were not a 20 something being curious.

Flip side - twice, got sick, apparently never plan to use, non-security position. It will depend on the agency’s view on the issue.

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Thanks for the response. Just wondering how seriously investigators take someone’s heartfelt remorse on the issue. I guess it kinda shows some trustworthiness to fess up. Not sure if it would have been ‘found’ otherwise. But trying to show still worth trust. Guess all can do is plead that inspite on review have actually felt bad…been feeling like that for last 3 years. Guess just wondering if they take that into account. Is it worth offering to sign a statement will never do again or volunteering for a treatment program or class? Would that help the situation in any way?