Will taking medicine for ADHD prevent me from joining the Air Force?
August 12, 2009 9:14 AM   Subscribe

Will my short history of taking medication for ADHD prevent me from entering the military?

A year and a half ago, I took myself to get tested for ADD/ADHD. My condition was diagnosed as very mild, inattentive but not hyperactive. Medication was an option, but by no means necessary.

I ended up deciding to try the drugs to see if they would help with schoolwork. After all, my mother had been diagnosed recently, my doctor advocated the drug, and hype around the disorder made it seem a likely diagnosis. I saw it as a sort of cure-all, which I really regret at this point.

I was prescribed 36mg of Concerta, which I took daily for around 9 months. It was more trouble than it was worth, didn't help my grades (which were good even without the drugs), and led me to believe that the problem was mostly in my head. It seems pretty clear now that my issues getting schoolwork done were mostly because of a lack of discipline.

After several months of frustration, I've begun to taper off the medication. So far there've been no ill effects and I plan to be completely off within a month or so.

I'm also planning on joining the Air Force. Ideally, I'd do AFROTC during college and serve a number of years afterward. Is this possible considering my history with the medication? What barriers will it pose in the application process?

Thanks so much!
posted by pyrom to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
Your best bet is to ask a recruiter. They will be well versed in what will prevent you from being able to serve.
posted by doh ray mii at 9:24 AM on August 12, 2009

My understanding is that they used to refuse anyone with an ADD/ADHD history, but right now you'll be allowable if you haven't taken the medication within 1 year, and aren't symptomatic at the time of admission. They'll probably give you some tests to determine whether you're acceptable to them or not (which I would guess they would be pretty lenient with).

(I'm not involved with the army, so this is not official advice, but I am a therapist and I recently worked with someone who wanted to join the army and I had to research this to see whether his diagnosis would prevent him from being able to enter.)
posted by so_gracefully at 9:28 AM on August 12, 2009

ask a recruiter
posted by doorsfan at 9:38 AM on August 12, 2009

Ask your recruiter. It wasn't much of an issue when I went in the Navy for the Nuclear power field, but that is a critically under-manned job. I did have to get a Waiver (basically permission from some bigwig) before entering, even though I hadn't been on medication for 3 years before signing up. I don't remember any specific testing that took place for me to get the waiver, but that was almost 9 years ago.

There will undoubtedly be different policies in place for the Air Force.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 9:48 AM on August 12, 2009

It will interfere with your ability to get a civilian pilot's license but I don't know what you want to do in the AF...ask a recruiter.
posted by kathrineg at 10:06 AM on August 12, 2009

Before asking a recruiter, I'd suggest talking to the AFROTC at the school of your choice; recruiters deal with enlisted members only (this is what it was for Navy/Marine Corps-- YMMV-- when I went to a recruiter after high school, they spent a few minutes looking at my quals then shunted me off to another office), and there are several different programs offered by each ROTC unit.

If this is what you want to do:

Apply for the national AFROTC scholarship here.

At the same time, talk to the AFROTC detatchments at each school that you're considering attending; they will have more specific details about your options at each school. (Admissions process, scholarship options, service details).

(As a sidenote-- I'd suggest also contacting other branches' ROTC departments, just to get another perspective. My experience was with Navy/Marine Corps; there were far more opportunities than I'd expected, and the education I received was not limited to military/academic pursuits. Spending four years learning to balance my duties with my responsibilities to my fellow MIDN/Marines/Sailors was a hell of a learning experience.)

If you have questions, feel free to MeFi mail me.
posted by Seeba at 10:19 AM on August 12, 2009

It will keep you out of the Air Force Academy, at least from what my son's paperwork a few years ago stated.

(as a side note, I think parents should be aware of this if they have a smart child that they think one day might be interested in an appointment to a service academy. A child needing medication should get it, but if there is any doubt and one wants to keep one's options open, might be best to err on the side of caution.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:09 AM on August 12, 2009

it's my understanding that anything other than anti-psychotics is okay -- but as everyone else has said, ask the recruiter!
posted by unlucky.lisp at 11:20 AM on August 12, 2009

Couple of weeks ago I asked a recruiter about this very issue for another question here. My understanding is that ADHD/ADD isn't necessarily going to keep you out, but that they will look at your meds and the specifics of your situation on your application and send you for a psych consult.
posted by Stewriffic at 2:54 PM on August 12, 2009

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