Has your FAA medical certificate been denied for “substance dependence?” If so, reference the previous article regarding the FAA’s criteria for “substance dependence.” You can read that article here: FAA Medical Certificate Denied for Substance Dependence: Part 1: Criteria for “Dependence” – The Pilot Lawyer This article will address the first and most problematic of the FAA’s four criteria for “substance dependence.” As you will recall, the relevant regulations in Part 67 identify four separate “clues” for determining whether an airman has “substance dependence.” Those items are: (a) Increased tolerance; (b) Manifestation of withdrawal symptoms; (c) Impaired control of use; or (d) Continued use despite damage to physical health or impairment of social, personal, or occupational functioning. The relevant regulations state that an airman’s history needs only establish one of the four criteria, not all four. This article will discuss “increase tolerance.”

In practice, it seems that the FAA identifies an airman as having a history of “substance dependence” by nature of “increased tolerance,” more so than any of the other criteria. What does “increased tolerance” mean? Well, the Federal Aviation Regulations do not identify the meaning of this criterion and the FAA does not have a hard and fast definition of this phenomenon. Generally, in practice, however, the FAA treats this issue as though it is a situation where an airman has used a substance more frequently and in larger amounts over time, such that it takes larger amounts to feel the same effects the airman may have felt when he or she was naïve to that substance and just had a small amount of it.  In other words, this can be defined as a need for larger amounts of the substance over time to feel the same effect.

The FAA has, in the past, at least also looked for some “purposeful function” to demonstrate the airman’s “increased tolerance.” This means that the FAA will evaluate whether the airman is able to function as if they weren’t intoxicated when there is evidence that the airman is extremely intoxicated with a substance. Most commonly is the FAA’s evaluation of a breath/blood alcohol content following a DUI. In these instances, the FAA tends to look at values at or above .15% to suggest whether there is any “tolerance.” An example is if an airman is able to find the keys to their car, put their key in the ignition of their car, drive their vehicle down the road, there is seemingly some indication of “purposeful function.” If an airman is intoxicated at an egregious level and is able to demonstrate this “function,” the FAA generally finds there is an “increased tolerance.” The key takeaways in medical certification cases are: 1) always be sure that BAC values are accurate before presenting them to the FAA; and 2) always evaluate whether there is any evidence of “purposeful function” in your history – if not, raise those points to the FAA.

Has your FAA medical certificate been denied for “substance dependence?” If so, remember the FAA’s essential criteria for this condition. If you need FAA medical certification help, contact an aviation medical attorney at The Ison Law Firm. If your FAA medical certificate was denied for “substance dependence,” there are opportunities for the FAA’s decision to be reconsidered and appealed. Learn more about what a FAA medical defense attorney at The Ison Law Firm can do for you.