Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Obtaining An FAA Medical Certificate

There are many questions that are commonly asked about obtaining an FAA medical certficate. The Obtaining An FAA Medical Certificate page provides a general overview of the process. This page attempts to provide answers to some of the most common specific questions.

Can I get a medical if ...

I don't really have a drinking problem?

If you have to answer yes to question 18 v on Form 8500-8, the FAA considers you to have at least alcohol abuse. There is then simply NO way to obtain a medical certificate to fly unless you are completely abstinent.

The FAA has a table describing how it evaluates applicantions with a history of issues with alcohol which advises the AME how to proceed. Obtaining a medical certificate with such a history will require participation in a drug monitoring and HIMS program. The FAA provides an overview of the required evaluations.

If I had a drinking problem?

The FAA requires at a minimum documentation of recovery and abstinence. See their overview of the required documents and evaluations.

Critical questions during the evaluation are:

  • Number of DUIs? This is as shown on a 10 year DMV search. Was in only 1, or more?
  • Were the events 5 or more years ago? Or more recently?
  • What was the BAC? Categories are <0.15, <0.18, >=0.2, didn't blow.

The likely interventions required to obtain a medical depending on those answers can be broken down as follows:

# DUIsBACTimeframeIntervention
1<0.15>5 years agoCan be issued by the AME after investigation if there is no history of alcohol abuse or dependence.
<5 years ago
0.15<= BAC < 0.18Requires Chemical Abuse Depenency Counselor evaluation of 5 factors of tolerance, withdrawal, lifestyle centered on use, continued use in the face of bad outcomes, and blackouts.
0.18<= BAC < 0.2Requires HIMS evaluation. 6 months negative random urine screens, logged AA attendance and other awareness activities.
0.2< BACConsidered alcohol dependence. Requires rehabilitation treatment. It will take a long time to obtain an SI as well as lifetime monitoring.
>=2Airman must provide personal statement and will be evaluated by FAA for action.

If I just smoke some marijuana occasionally?

Marijuana is a schedule 1 illegal substance per Federal law and you will not be issued a medical certificate if you have used in the last 90 days. Under current law and regulation, it is just necessary to make a choice between being a pilot or using marijuana.

If I have a history of depression?

This depends on exact psychiatric history, whether you still have depressive episodes, and whether you are being treated with medication. One can obtain a medical certificate as a special issuance if one has been or is being treated with 1 of 4 permitted selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). There are two possible SSRI pathways for doing so. See SSRI Initial Certification for more details.

If I am taking an anti-depressant?

It is possible to obtain a medical certificate if you are being treated with 1 of 4 permitted SSRIs and the illness is documented as being under control. See SSRI Initial Certification for more details.

If I have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) ?

The ability to obtain a medical certificate depends on whether one still has this illness and is being treated for it. If this was a childhood condition which has resolved, it is possible to obtain a medical with some basic evaluation to then obtain an initial special issuance.

If I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disease?

The FAA is presently very reluctant to provide a special issuance medical certificate with any hint of bipolarity. If one has been off medications for 10 years with documented no psychiatric illness, this can be possible.

If I have suicidal thoughts or have attempted suicide?

The FAA recognizes that suicidality lies on a continuum. From very passive ideation like wondering what it would be like if one were dead to actually making a serious attempt to kill oneself. A special issuance may be possible in some less severe cases and will require documentation of appropriate treatment of the underlying condition which gave rise to suicidality.

Do I have to report all past medications I have taken?

No. Question 17a on FAA Form 8500-8 asks about current medications only, not past usage.

Do I have to report non-prescription medications I am taking?

Basically yes. If you consider what you are taking a medication, and particularly if it is being taken for a chronic condition, it should be reported on Question 17a of FAA Form 8500-8. Also see the AME examiners guide discussion of pharmaceuticals at Therapeutic Medications.

Should I report counseling I have had?

If the counseling was related to personal substance abuse or a psychiatric condition, then yes. Otherwise no. Further guidance in answering this question is available in the Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners..

What happens if I lie on the medical application?

This page does not make concrete suggestions on how to best respond to a coercive government regulatory agency demanding to know personal medical details. However, it is important to realize that there are severe potential penalties for knowingly making false statements on this form.

Firstly, it is a Federal felony crime to do so (18 USC 1001, 18 USC 3571). People have not often been convicted of doing this but there have been cases where the Federal government prosecuted pilots who were also collecting Federal disability and had failed to disclose these conditions on the form.

Secondly, the FAA can and will likely take civil action against any pilot having made a false statement on a medical application including revocation of all certificates (FAR 67.403).