How Substance Abuse Affects Security Clearances

Since drugs and alcohol are so prevalent in our society, a lot of people have issues with alcohol, illegal drugs, or even prescription drugs to one degree or another. While something such as a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) or marijuana possession can certainly bar someone from obtaining a security clearance – that is not always the case.

Often, a substance abuse issue does not stand alone, but it’s the person’s behavior, combined with other factors, such as bad credit, poor financial decisions (e.g. being financially overextended), and criminal conduct that makes it difficult for the person to be suitable for a security clearance. Read on as we delve deeper into how substance abuse impacts security clearances.

Issues Surrounding Alcohol Consumption

According to the Adjudicative Guidelines, Guideline G, “Excessive alcohol consumption often leads to the exercise of questionable judgement or the failure to control impulses, and can raise questions about an individual’s reliability and trustworthiness.”

The alcohol-related conditions that may be disqualifying, include but are not limited to:

  • Alcohol-related incidents, such as DUI, domestic violence, and disturbing the peace,
  • Being diagnosed as someone who abuses alcohol or who is dependent on alcohol,
  • Showing up to work intoxicated, or drinking on the job,
  • Habitual or binge drinking to the extent that one’s judgement is impaired,
  • Receiving a diagnoses from a medical professional that one is an alcohol abuser or dependent on alcohol,
  • Relapse after completing an alcohol rehabilitation program, and
  • Failing to follow a court order regarding abstaining from alcohol, or receiving an alcohol evaluation, education, or treatment.

There are circumstances that could mitigate a security clearance concern regarding alcohol, for example, if a lot of time elapsed, or if the occurrence was a one-time event and it didn’t cast any doubt on the applicant’s trustworthiness or judgement, the alcohol-related incident may be overlooked.

If the individual acknowledged that they had issues with alcoholism and they sought treatment and can provide evidence of such treatment, and show that they no longer abuser alcohol, these commendable actions may clear the way for security clearance.

Concerns Surrounding Drug Involvement

Under the Adjudicative Guidelines H, when a person uses illegal drugs or abuses prescription drugs, it raises concerns over his or her judgement, reliability, and trustworthiness. Some of the conditions that could raise a security clearance concern, include:

  • Any history of drug abuse,
  • Testing positive for illegal drugs,
  • Possessing illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia,
  • Diagnoses from a qualified doctor stating that you abuse or are dependent on drugs,
  • Failing to complete a drug treatment program after a qualified medical professional prescribes such a program,
  • Using illegal drugs after being granted security clearance, and
  • Expressing the intent to continue using illegal drugs.

Even if an individual has had issues with drug abuse, there are conditions that could mitigate the security concerns, for example, if it’s been a long time, or if the person signs a statement that their clearance will be automatically revoked if they use drugs again, then they may still be able to obtain security clearance.

In conclusion, those who excessively consume alcohol will be scrutinized the same as someone with a drug abuse problem. If someone had a DUI a few months ago, they will be more scrutinized than someone who was arrested for possessing an illegal substance more than five years ago.

The possibility of probation and community service for the DUI could result in a security clearance denial, especially when the charges have yet to be filed, but they are inevitable.

If your security clearance was denied due to drug or alcohol abuse, contact Claery & Hammond, LLP for assistance getting the results you need.