Chances of obtaining any clearance w/ unique drug history

Hi all,

 I have a particularly unique background and need some advice on what my chances are realistically of ever obtaining any type of security clearance (either secret or TS).

So, when I was a 16-year-old teenager (circa 2000), I received an eye injury that required a visit to the ER. There, doctors prescribed me narcotic painkillers (specifically Vicodin/hydrocodone), as the pain was unbearable. To make a long story short, I had a “Rush Limbaugh” situation, and became physical dependent on them, and was purchasing them from an associate at my office at the time.

After a couple of years of using narcotics – while also experimenting with other drugs – a friend of mine recommended a particular out-patient clinic he was familiar with. After a few months of waffling, I decided to enroll in their program, which basically simply consists of receiving your daily methadone along with a mandatory monthly UA drug test.

After a year or so, I strongly desired to “complete” the program (i.e., simply taper off and leave), and suboxone was a new alternative drug on the market (this was around 2004). I found a doctor who could prescribe it, but ended up having an extremely bad reaction to the suboxone, which scarred me deeply, and I resolved to stay on the usual methadone program out of fear of going through anything like what I had experienced before.

I stopped using all illicit drugs in 2005, and have never used again (not even once – as an aside, I also successfully and completely stopped smoking in 2007). Unfortunately, due to my fear of the physical complications and eventualities associated with tapering off of the medicine, combined with (what I can now see in retrospect) self-serving dissuasion and difficulties imposed by the for-profit clinic administrators themselves, I basically never left. I am now finally ready, and have formulated a comprehensive plan/schedule to tackle this problem, and am on track toward being out of this program by the end of the year.

However, I’m sure you can see where this is leading. Unfortunately, there are some fantastic job opportunities in my field, for which I would be well-qualified and suited for due to my education (I obtained my GED, BS, and Ph.D. degrees during those intervening years). Unfortunately, I know that obtaining a TS clearance is laughable; however, is there any possibility that at least a secret clearance would be obtainable, given my 14 years of complete sobriety (and with the monthly UA records to back it up)?

Any insight from those who are familiar with this process would be greatly appreciated. Thanks very much for any help.


So . . . A few questions:

You started with an injury when you were 16 but you were buying pills from “an associate” at your office?

You switched to methadone when? At what age did that start?

You are still getting methadone? How old are you now?

If you “have a plan” to get off of methadone, you’re not going to get cleared until you have been clean for 12 to 36 months depending on how long you have been in that program.

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Ed, thanks for your reply-- allow me to clarify those points:
(1) It began with a prescription when I was 16, yes, and the purchasing from a co-worker began a
short time after that prescription ran out (maybe weeks, months, I’m not sure because it was 20 years ago).

(2) I started on methadone right after I turned 19.

(3) I am still on methadone now, at the age of 35.

I *am* getting off now (i.e. I am following a scheduled taper) -- of course, if I could just quit today I would be thrilled to do so, but it's considered medically unsafe to do so, hence the series of scheduled reductions.

Lastly, I am clean from any and all illicit substances and have been so for 14 years (again, with documented proof of that) – I don’t even drink alcohol. When you say “‘clean’ for 12 to 36 months” I am assuming you mean “clean” from my prescribed methadone (I think we’re just using different terminology because I consider “clean” to mean free of illicit substances).

Anyway, thank you for your advice, I hoped there would be some way I could at least possibly obtain secret clearance (again, I know they would laugh more out of the room regarding TS), but I guess it is what it is.

Yes . . . When I say “clean” I’m talking about drugs that will be problematic.

If this is your only issue, then I think you should be fine given that you have not abused or used illegal drugs 14 years. Time, itself, is a mitigation.

As for your current treatment, I do not believe that adjudicator will hold that against you. So, you should be able to obtain Secret and Top Secret clearance assuming that it is your only issue and you are following through your treatment. With that said, I would suggest you to come clean on the subject.

Also, keep in mind that some agencies have ZERO tolerance for illegal drug use. So, you might want to check with the agency’s security officer before you move forward.

I don’t believe this to be true. If he follows medical advices, then adjudicators aren’t going to hold that against him. This is a prescribed drug not an illegal drug; thus, the 12-36 months do not apply.

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Wow. Thanks for posting. Lets look at the positives here: Clean from non legal since 2005. Time indeed mitigates enormous drug abuse. I would say you clearly meet that standard. Since methadone is prescribed and still used…though you normally do not discuss prescribed meds…in this case it is imperative you do. Why? Because methadone requires explanation, and a scoping of your medical and counseling records. Depending on what this counseling service characterizes your situation as…therein lies the rub. If they want you on the hook and spending money, or if they get government money by you needing Methadone…they have a vested interest in characterizing your requirement…lets say in a manner not favorable to you. It would not be the firs time. If your drug tests are regular and have never shown a relapse you have that on your side.

You accomplished an amazing amount of education and I salute you for that. Again, showing you are on the plus side of being a productive member of society. That too speaks volumes. If you disclose all of this to the BI person…you are not vulnerable to someone threatening to reveal your Methadone use. I always say tell them everything, shade nothing. I would seek a clearance at the Secret level first. Same adjudicative standards, but they are only looking at National Agency Checks. Once you prove you remain clean and sober there it is possible to grow. I do lean towards Ed on trying to get off Methadone for up to 36 months first. You aren’t abusing it…but it continues to show you are moving on. I imagine there is quite a physical dependency at this point. But I salute your sobriety.

Thank you EdFarmerIII , @AWoodhull, and @amberbunny for your insights – all such information is very valuable to me, as I have little knowledge in this area.

@amberbunny: With respect to how I am regarded at my program, they are all basically huge fans of mine; also, they do not receive any money from any government agency for my presence there (I am, and always have been, a private-pay patient the entire time). I know they would fully characterize me as “recovered,” if asked, (notwithstanding, of course, the obvious physical dependency there, as you mentioned).

To all: I know that the most obvious question someone would probably ask me pertains to why I have been in the program for so long. This was an unfortunate combination of factors, the largest of which was simply that I was doing very well for myself, had turned my life around, and was advancing in ever aspect of my career and/or education throughout these years; I didn’t want to “tinker with the support beams,” so to speak.

Looking back, I think my fears were largely overblown, and were based on my bad experience with trying to leave the program the first time in 2005 via switching to suboxone (a much less controlled medication).

Despite how it sounds, when I started down this path, I was simply a teenager who lacked any sort of parental oversight, while at the same time falling in with the wrong crowd (I was working full time at 16, and have been either a full-time employee, full-time student, or both for my entire adult life).

However, those early experiences cost me dearly, in the sense that I now must deal with the consequences of this, which I accept. But, that was not who I am, and once I found myself in my early twenties, I turned everything around. As a sick irony, I am now about the most anti-drug person you could meet (poetic justice, I suppose).

Anyway, thank you all very much for your advice and input, it is greatly appreciated, and will provide me with some things to ponder during my immediate future. Thanks again…

Do you receive counseling support there as well? Or just the medication to not go into withdrawal? If it is counseling and mental health assistance…I see that as a positive, particularly with all the fine things they would say about you, well documented, year in and year out to boot. Mental health issues if controlled…are just that, controlled. We all don’t start off at the same starting line as others. Some are born poor, others wealthy. Some have strong parents and still end up on drugs, others fight for their existence and never use. If there isn’t an abuse dependency…and you are following a doctor’s treatment and a counselor…I see no reason you would not clear.

@amberbunny: Monthly counseling is required at the program, yes, so I adhere to that and all of the other rules required to remain in the program. Of course, after such a long period of sobriety, we mostly just talk about my progress in life in general, accomplishments (degrees, jobs, marriage, etc.), things such as that. I honestly should have left the program a long long time ago, but I was scared because of the bad experience I had when I tried to switch medicines when I was much younger.
To be clear: you think it’s possible I could obtain a secret clearance (not TS, just secret) while being a patient at a drug-rehabilitation clinic (i.e., methadone clinic)? I just fear that that alone, even if I were elected president of the United States, would disqualify me (regardless of 14 years complete sobriety, 7-years married, BS then Ph.D. degrees obtained, etc.). I know that all of my stability and accomplishments would be mitigating factors for drug use as a teenager, but the fact that I’m still in the program has me scared that I would never be approved.
To be clear, I’ve been offered a job that requires a secret clearance; I am thrilled about it and would love the job, and it’s directly within my area of research.

Addiction…as many are learning with Opioids, is a lifelong battle. A treatable condition. You are living proof of that. Dare I say you are the poster child for success in this niche. I think it will go slower than most other clearances as this requires vetting and reassurances. I see it as a mental health issue. If a person has a controlled mental health issue, medicated but no problems living in modern life…no outbreaks, etc, they regularly get cleared. There are literally thousands of medicated, cleared workers. Likely, hundreds of thousands. Anything from mild depression to full blown deep issues. If controlled and you have the support of your counselors and medical community, I believe you are okay. Even if initially denied, please appeal. You can be on the pointy edge of leading the way for others. If your finances are good, everything is in a payment plan, no other derogatory info is there…14 years sober speaks volumes. Getting that education speaks volumes. Technically the adjudicative standards are the same for Secret and TS. I tend to believe Secret gives you a bit more leeway. For Secret you get National Agency checks. If there are no records found during that series of checks…you may not even speak to an investigator. A quick review of the original post shows no use since 2005. So I think you need not even reveal the treatment under drug use, but mental health counseling needs to explain and that will lead to them uncovering the info. So to that end I would go on record and reveal it all up front. Others posting here will advise you to NOT reveal it. Always best for the candidate to speak to it. Talk it over with your counselors, get their feedback, and see if they would highly support you. This way they understand whey someone is inquiring.

Filesnail…any update? Pulling for your success.