Will a ADHD diagnosis or treatment make me lose my security clearance?
April 13, 2009 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Will I lose my security clearance if I am diagnosed ADD/ADHD? And if not, what about if I am diagnosed and taking prescribed, but controlled medication for it?

I have a United States Secret security clearance. I probably have ADHD--my wife is convinced and wants me to see a doctor.

Side note: I think she's probably right. My son has been diagnosed, and the reading we've done seems to point toward this. It would certainly explain some of the massive problems I have getting things done. Of course, my wifebis indeed not a doctor and I would actually be going to a pesumably qualified professional. Indeed I'd prefer to be declared, um, "normal" so I could just say I was lazy and could work harder. But that approach hang works for a long, long time and we're close to divorce over this issue.

If I am diagnosed, what are the effects on my clearance? What about if I begin taking medication? Most of the material out there seems to be aimed at military. A diagnosis apparently used to mean they wouldn't take you. Now you can get in with a diagnosis provided you haven't taken any amphetamines (prescribed even). So they're saying you can have a disorder as long as you don't treat it, which sounds ludicrous.

I have in fact considered leaving the defense industry for private sector work, which is fine and good and not a bad idea but not the answer I'm looking for. What I am looking for is advice about should I go (probably, not definitely) get diagnosed, and what are my disclosure requirements with regard to diagnosis and treatment. You are not my company's security department, but I'm trying to avoid the stigma that would certainly result if I were to ask in person.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As someone who has worked in the defense industry and held a security clearance for most of my adult life, I'm pretty confident that you don't have too much to worry about. From what I've been briefed, the most crucial thing is to disclose this to your security manager. Since yours is a secret clearance, I can't imagine too much will be made of this.
posted by doh ray mii at 3:47 PM on April 13, 2009

If you live in a fairly defense-contracting-heavy area, I'm willing to bet the local ADHD treatment experts have seen plenty of guys like you (probably as a cash-on-the-barrel consult, no insurance involved) to discuss how this impacts clearance and how clearance impacts treatment. Your son's caregivers might even know, if you were to slide in a quick question at his next evaluation.

Also, not every ADHD treatment option these days is amphetamine-based, although the amphetamines are still the first line of attack for most folks. If it is true that you could lose your clearance for prescribed amphetamine use, your doctors can take that into account and give you a different form of medication. (How do they feel about antidepressants, or meds like Strattera, which is an ADHD med but isn't scheduled?)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:54 PM on April 13, 2009

Anecdotal, but I have a friend who has a Secret clearance with diagnosed ADD. (I was one of her references.) She is not currently taking medication, but has taken some in the past. So, I vote that you're fine.
posted by geeky at 4:41 PM on April 13, 2009

You should be fine. The only problem I could see is if you had been when you received the clearance, and lied about it.

To murder me some Donald Rumsfeld... 'There are known unknowns and unknown unknowns.' In terms of Security Clearances-- the Gov't seems to worry more about 'unknown unknowns'. They'd rather know all the bad juju up front.
posted by SeanMac at 5:04 PM on April 13, 2009

Nth-ing the "I don't see an issue"--my husband has colleagues who have had various psychiatric and neurological issues and taken medication for them, and who retained their security clearances and/or got new/better ones.

Schizophrenia, psychosis, and other diagnoses with the potential to significantly impair judgment might be another story, but depression/anxiety/ADHD are par for the course.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:24 PM on April 13, 2009

They don't care what you do/did or are/were. They only care if you try to hide it, because something that you try to hide can be used against you by adversaries.
posted by _Skull_ at 11:25 AM on April 14, 2009

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