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US Military Enlistment Standards

Drug/Alcohol Involvement

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A drug addict injecting himself with heroin
encklc / E+ / Getty Images

The United States Military does not condone the illegal or improper use of drugs or alcohol. It is DOD's stated contention that illegal drug use and abuse of alcohol is:

(1) Is against the law.

(2) Violates the high standards of behavior and performance expected of a member of the United States Armed Forces.

(3) Is damaging to physical, mental, and psychological health.

(4) Jeopardizes the safety of the individual and others.

(5) Is fundamentally wrong, destructive to organizational effectiveness, and totally incompatible with service as a member of the U.S. Military.

(6) Is likely to result in criminal prosecution and discharge under other than honorable conditions.

All applicants are carefully screened concerning drug and alcohol involvement. As a minimum, you can expect the recruiter to ask:

a. "Have you ever used drugs?"

b. "Have you been charged with or convicted of a drug or drug related offense?"

c. "Have you ever been psychologically or physically dependent upon any drug or alcohol?"

d. "Have you ever trafficked, sold, or traded in illegal drugs for profit?"

If the answer to the last two questions is "yes," then you can expect to be ineligible for enlistment. If the answer to the first two questions is yes, then you can expect to have to complete a drug abuse screening form, detailing the specific circumstances of your drug usage. The military service will then make a determination as to whether or not your previous drug usage is a bar to service in that particular branch of the military. In most cases, a person who experimented with "non-hard" drugs in the past will be allowed to enlist. Anything more than experimentation may very well be a bar to enlistment. An "experimenter" is defined as:


.."one who has illegally, wrongfully, or improperly used any narcotic substance, marijuana, or dangerous drug, for reasons of curiosity, peer pressure, or other similar reason. The exact number of times drugs were used, is not necessarily as important as determining the category of use and the impact of the drug use on the user's lifestyle, the intent of the user, the circumstances of use, and the psychological makeup of the user. An individual whose drug experimentation/use has resulted in some form of medical, psychiatric, or psychological treatment; a conviction or adverse juvenile adjudication; or loss of employment does not fall within the limits of this category. For administrative purposes, determination of the category should be within the judgment of either the district or recruiting station commanding officer, aided by medical, legal, and moral advice, with information as available from investigative sources."

While not a "hard and fast" rule, one can expect that any admitted use of marijuana over 15 or so times, or any admitted use of "hard drugs," will be disqualifying, and require a waiver.

In any case:

1. Dependency on illegal drugs is disqualifying.

2. Any history of drug use is potentially disqualifying.

3. Any history of dependency on alcohol is disqualifying.

Even if enlistment is authorized, many sensitive military jobs will be closed to individuals who have any past association with illegal drug or alcohol use.

In the Air Force, anyone who admits to smoking marijuana less than 15 times does not require a waiver. More than 15 times, but less than 25 requires a Drug Eligibility Determination (basically, a trained Drug & Alcohol Specialist will examine the exact circumstances of the use). An approved Drug Eligibility Determination is not the same thing as a "waiver," in that it will not preclude enlistment in most Air Force Jobs. 25 or more uses of Marijuana in a lifetime is disqualifying, and requires a waiver.

As a minimum, recruits will undergo a urinalysis test, when at the Military Entrance Processing Station, (MEPs) for their initial processing, and again when reporting for basic training.

Readers Respond: Are Military Enlistment Standards too tough, too lax, or just right?

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