Will My 7-Year-Old Drug Charge Hold Me Back?

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OPM 298: Will My 7-Year-Old Drug Charge Hold Me Back?

Session 298

This nontrad has great stats but is worried that an old drug charge will keep them out of med school. Can they overcome it?

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Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[01:04] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

“I have reached out to a couple of universities and have divulged the age (almost 7 years old) and nature of what are two concurrent (earned at the same time) misdemeanor drug charges. It’s specifically possession of an amount of a dangerous drug for personal use and possession of drug paraphernalia. It was a baggie that contained the drug that will show up on my background check. 

**These charges cannot be expunged. In the state where I was charged. In Arizona, their courts do not allow expungement for any charge. They only allow something called a “set aside,” which still leaves the charge on your background but notes that it was “set aside.”

I was told by both admissions departments that this would not automatically disqualify me for admission, but has anyone here known anyone who was accepted into medical school after pleading guilty to a drug charge?

The reason why I was using it at the time is complicated and might make them question my current mental status. If I explained where my mind was at the time, I would have had to paint the picture of the abusive relationship that I was in for nearly a decade (age 18 to 27). 

I had reached a point in my life where I felt like the only escape from the isolation, physical abuse, and psychological abuse that I was experiencing was to end my life. How much of that should I openly share on my AMCAS and AACOMAS applications?

Some information regarding who I am in this journey:


In 2019, I graduated summa cum laude (3.97 cumulative GPA) with an Associate in Science and an Associate in Arts degree. Also, since transferring to the university that I attend now, I have maintained a 4.0 GPA and will be graduating in the spring of 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (Pre-med emphasis).

Current BCPM GPA = 3.89 but I will continue to take more biology and math-related classes to raise this before I graduate.


I am beginning to prepare now so I can take the MCAT by the middle of next year. I want to feel as confident as possible when I head into the test.


I have spent time with local food banks, my last school’s food pantry, and in a no-kill animal shelter

Clinical Experience

I worked in an emergency room as a patient registration representative. Often, I was the first contact that a patient had with hospital staff. And if a patient was incapacitated, I was often the first to approach family members and gather information. A wristband and stickers could be made that would make treating the patient easier.  

I dealt with people who were struggling with mental health issues. Some were experiencing immediate distress due to physical trauma and I needed to approach them in a way that would allow me to help them the best way I could in my position.”

[04:05] Possible Consequences

There are people who are in medical school who had drug-related issues, and they’ve gotten. It’s not an issue. You are accepted to medical school prior to any sort of background check. The background check happens after. Obviously, in your application, you will answer yes or no if asked about a misdemeanor or a felony.

When you answer yes to those, you have a little bit of space to talk about those things. And so, the best thing to do is just to be open and honest and talk about it. Don’t go into the big details about the trauma and abuse you suffered.

Talk about it in a way that people will know what you’re talking about. They get it, there was some abuse there and drug use was a part of that escape. Then talk about being clean and being sober. Talk about that with as few characters as possible because they don’t give you a lot of space.

'Getting into medical school with an old drug charge shouldn't be a problem.'Click To Tweet

Where there may be issues would be things like getting a DEA license and medical licensing down the road. That’s usually where medical schools are concerned. It’s not necessarily for acceptance of medical school. But whether there will be any issues in licensing down the road that may hinder your ability to practice medicine once you graduate medical school.

So talk to a lawyer just from that aspect, not from getting into medical school aspect because you’ll be okay there. Your grades are great. Hopefully, your MCAT score is good.

[06:20] Your Next Steps

Talk to a lawyer in terms of whether it’s going to affect your ability to get a DEA. Or even go straight to the DEA and layout your concern.

That being said, getting into medical school is going to be fine. As long as you’re open and honest with them on your application and what you went through, without going into too much depth.

'You don't want to make people uncomfortable reading about what happened to you. But you also want to tell your story.' Click To Tweet

You need to be comfortable with what you say, and understand the people on the other end also don’t want to feel uncomfortable reading what you have to write. It’s human nature that if we’re uncomfortable reading with what the other person is writing, then we want to push it away. So just be careful with going into too much depth. But tell your story.

[08:02] Work Experience Related to Medicine

Being the patient registration representative is not clinical experience, but admin experience. Just because you’re interacting with the patient doesn’t make it a clinical experience. It’s very similar to a front desk person at an outpatient clinic.

And so, if you can get some different and better clinical experiences where you’re interacting with patients outside of the admin side of it, then do that.

[08:47] Final Thoughts

As long as you’re clean, sober, and in a better place now, that shouldn’t be a problem getting into medical school. Just go and ask those questions. It shouldn’t be a problem later on down the line. We are humans. We are not perfect.

'There are plenty of doctors, I guarantee you, that are out practicing who had issues in the past and are fine now.'Click To Tweet


PMY197: Can You Become a Doctor If You’ve Been Arrested?

PMY399: Social Injustices, the Law, and Applying to Medical School

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