Military Recruiting & Drug Use: Can you Still Join?

Over the past few decades the landscape of military recruiting has changed quite a bit. One of the areas it has changed significantly is with military recruiting and drug use. While restrictions on alcohol use have become far stricter, those on certain drugs have become more tolerant.

Since marijuana has become far more accepted within society and even legal in some states, the military has become more tolerant, as well. While getting caught selling or getting convicted of using other drugs may keep you from joining the military, admitting to using marijuana a few times won’t necessarily prevent you from fighting for your country.

In most cases, a conviction for drug use or alcohol use will disqualify you from joining the military. However, a moral waiver may allow you to continue through the military recruiting process.

The Official Stance of the U.S. Military on Drugs and Alcohol

The Department of Defense and the United States Military do not and will not condone any illegal use of drugs or alcohol. The stance of the military starts with the legal issue of drugs and alcohol. If it’s against the law, it can keep you from joining. In addition, use of drugs and alcohol violates the high standard of performance and behavior expected from those joining the United States Armed Forces.

It’s also mentally, physically and psychologically damaging and can jeopardize the safety of others. Drug use can also lead to criminal prosecution and discharge from the military. All recruits are carefully screened and you can expect to be asked the following questions:

  • Have you ever used drugs?
  • Have you been charged with or convicted of a drug or alcohol related offenses?
  • Have you ever been physically or psychologically dependent upon alcohol or any type of drug?
  • Have you ever sold, traded or trafficked illegal drugs for profit?

If you answer yes to either of the last to questions you will likely be ineligible for enlistment. However, answering “yes” to the first two questions may not keep you from joining. If you have used drugs or been charged or convicted with a drug or alcohol related offenses, you will likely have to go through a drug abuse screening and detail the specific circumstances of the situation before you can join the military.

After you have gone through the drug abuse screening, the military will make a determination and may keep you from joining altogether or limit the branches you will be allowed to join. Typically, someone who has experimented with “non-hard” drugs will be allowed to enlist. However, anything more than experimentation could keep you from enlisting in the military.

What Type of Drug Use will Keep You Out of the Military?

If you have any dependency on illegal drugs, you will be barred from joining the military. The military recruiting process will discover your dependency and you won’t be able to get around this. While dependency on drugs will disqualify you, a history of drug you will only potentially disqualify you. However, any history of dependency on alcohol will disqualify you from serving in the United States Military.

Even if you’re allowed to join the military with previous drug use, your use of drugs could keep you from serving in certain positions. Many military jobs are closed to those who have a history with alcohol use or illegal drug use.

In addition, if you want to join the Air Force and you have admitted to smoking marijuana more than 25 times, you will need a waiver to join. Those admitting to smoking marijuana 15 to 25 times will need a Drug Eligibility Determination, which is basically an examination by a Drug & Alcohol Specialist of the exact circumstances.

At the very minimum, you can expect to go through a urinalysis test when at the Military Entrance Processing Station. This test will be done again when you report for basic training. If any drug or urine test comes back positive, you can expect to be disqualified. If alcohol or marijuana shows up on the test, you may be able to retest in six months. Any stronger drugs showing up may allow you to retest in one year.

Regardless, if you have to retake the urinary test and it comes out negative, you will still need a waiver to join. If a second test comes out positive, you will have to wait two years before you can retest.

In any case where a military recruit has tested positive on one test, the Recruiting Battalion Commander or the Executive Officer can approve a waiver to join the military. However, if a second test comes back positive, the waiver will need to be approved by the Recruiting Command or the Commanding General of the section of the military the recruit is joining.

If you do end up joining the military on a waiver, you will need to stay very clean during your time in the military. Even getting into a fight after drinking alcohol could have in in big trouble once your commanding officer discovers the waiver in your records.

Those looking to join the military with past drug use should stop using drugs immediately. If you plan to join the military before you turn 21, you should avoid drugs and alcohol all together. Stay clean and you shouldn’t have to worry about going through the military recruiting process with drug use found on your record.




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