New treatments and drug therapies are always coming onto the market. If you’re a security clearance holder, however, you may wonder if certain prescriptions – like those for psychedelic drugs – could actually pose a clearance issue. The issue comes down to two factors – is the drug legal under federal (not state) law, and has it been properly prescribed by a medical professional – if it fits both of those categories, there is no need to report it as a part of the standard security clearance background investigation process.

Ketamine is one drug with emerging uses for the treatment of persistent depression. Available as a nasal spray in a clinical setting, it has even been used in trials through the VA. But with marijuana continuing to present issues for individuals trying to apply for security clearances while on the drug, clearance holders and applicants may wonder if ketamine could similarly slip up their security clearance chances.

The difference between ketamine and marijuana use as a clearance issue comes down to federal law. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug illegal under federal law and without approved medicinal uses. Ketamine is a Schedule III drug, which means that while there is the potential for abuse there are also legally approved medicinal uses.

What to do if you’re prescribed ketamine

The government’s approach to mental health and national security workers has changed dramatically. Counseling – and related treatment – for depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental health issues do not need to be listed on the SF-86. Using a substance like ketamine under a prescribed treatment by a doctor is highly preferable to self medicating with drugs and alcohol.

But just because a doctor prescribes or suggests ketamine doesn’t mean security clearance holder should jump in without considering their careers. The SF-86 doesn’t ask about specific drugs, but if your position includes drug testing, you may want to consider self-reporting your ketamine treatment prior to popping hot for the drug on a test. In addition, keep in mind the requirements of any IC elements or the specific health requirements of your position, and plan to take the drug accordingly. Ask wise questions of your medical professionals about the long-term affects of the drug and how they align with the requirements of your job.



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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer