A Complete Guide to Drug Tests in the Armed Forces
It’s not uncommon for many people to participate in drinking or drug use as a relaxation or celebratory routine to reward themselves. In some cases, if this action is within the rules of the law and exercised with moderation and responsibility, some people are able to keep these engagements to a minimum and mostly eliminate the risk of addiction.
That said, regardless of the hold you feel you have on your drinking or any other means of unwinding, there’s ALWAYS, even if only the most minor, a chance for addiction to take hold. If you’re in the Armed Forces, you may already know the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’ to the question: does the military drug test you?
The risk is far greater than the reward, and it’s critical that you fight off the urge to use any type of illicit drug, no matter how sparing or harmless it seems in the moment. However, accidents happen and it’s important to understand your options during these moments.
If you’re in the Armed Forces and looking for options if you’re facing a potentially positive drug test, you might want to read this article in its entirety. This isn’t a way to beat your drug test, but it is a source of information on how you can avoid facing the stress of putting yourself at risk of failing drug testing.
The Military’s Stand on Drug Testing
About 600,000 drug tests are performed monthly across the United States military, with certain branches performing as many as four tests per month and the Reserves testing once every two years. This means that any unit’s commander can order random drug testing for the entire unit or a subset of the unit at any time.
These findings can be used as evidence in a court of law or to justify dismissal without cause. The commander may order a random drug test, but no service member may be singled out for testing or refuse to participate.
The Procedure for a Military Drug Test
- Before submitting a sample for a military drug test, the member is required to initial the vial.
- The overseeing officer packs each group of military drug tests into boxes and initiates a chain of custody record for each group.
- Anyone who works with this military drug test batch from now on must sign the chain of command. This also holds true for the laboratory setting.
- The names and actions of laboratory personnel are documented for each military drug test sample.
- The initial military drug screen is tested on each specimen.
- Those who test positive undergo further military drug testing with the same procedure.
- Those who pass the first two tests are subjected to a gas chromatography/mass spectrometry analysis of their urine to look for trace amounts of drug use.
- If the drug test value is less than a predetermined amount, the result does not test positive; otherwise, it is considered failing. The DOD can conduct tests for a wide variety of substances. The drug test may include testing for anything from LSD to benzodiazepines.
However, usually, each drug test includes the most common items for drug use. This includes marijuana, cocaine, meth, and opioids. A commander can request a drug test for steroids in addition to amphetamines, marijuana, and cocaine. A failed military drug test is a serious offense and holds severe punishment for military members.
If you submit a failed military drug test, your military career is in serious jeopardy. A failed drug test typically leads to a court-martial, immediate dismissal from military service until a decision is made, the potential severance of your military career, and possible criminal charges. This is when you must ask yourself – is drug use worth the risk for service members?
What Service Members Are Tested?
The drug testing program in the military is extensive. At the very least once a year, every service member must submit urine samples.
Drug testing is mandated for National Guard and Reserve members every two years.
What Are the Tests Used For?
Depending on the context, a positive drug test result for a service member might be used in a variety of ways. The majority of drug tests screen for a few common substances and are completely random.
Results can be used as evidence against employees in involuntary termination and court martial proceedings. Only when specifically forbidden by a superior officer’s decision can positive findings be excluded from court-marshal proceedings.
Nonetheless, we may still apply those findings to involuntary discharges. Military personnel typically do not have the option to decline to test for substance use.
What Illicit Drugs Are Tested for In Urine Samples?
The drug tests are sensitive enough to detect a wide variety of substances. However, not every single one is tested in every single sample. Marijuana, amphetamines, and cocaine are the three drugs that are always checked for in every sample.
However, other drugs like LSD, heroin, barbiturates, meth, and PCP are also tested at random in the samples. There are circumstances in which a commander may request a steroid test on a urine sample.
Some Substances That Can Lead to a Positive Drug Test
There are different tests required for each type of drug. For example, the same test that looks for marijuana isn’t the same test that looks for something like Suboxone or LSD. The list below contains a collection of the potential substances that are looked for during a military test:
- Opioids and opiates
- among others
How Do I Pass My Military Drug Test?
There’s only one surefire way to pass a military drug test – and that’s to abstain from drug use completely and follow the rules. However, situations happen when service members land in situations that are less than ideal – people make mistakes, and fortunately, there are solutions available for these mistakes.
You can’t beat or cheat your military screening, but you can take steps to protect yourself if you’ve slipped up and need help. At South Shores Detox and Recovery, we can provide assistance to service members that have had issues or challenges with drug use and are nervous about failing a drug procedure.
If you’ve already failed your drug test, you may need additional legal help or services we are unable to provide. However, if you still haven’t been ordered to test, your best course of action is to contact South Shores Detox and Recovery.
How Can South Shores Detox and Recovery Help Me with My Drug Test?
At South Shores Detox and Recovery, we help Armed Forces members with their drug testing and addiction challenges daily. If you have a TRICARE policy, we can help you mitigate the risk of any potential upcoming drug test before you face the risk.
We accept most TRICARE policies, especially for active duty members and their immediate family members. Our facilities are also located conveniently to Camp Pendleton: we are less than a thirty-minute drive up I-5 on a light traffic day.
If you believe you may be facing a drug test with the potential for a failing result, we have multiple options available to you. We can provide the following assistance:
Multiple Care Levels
South Shores proudly provide inpatient and outpatient care for all service members. If you believe your situation isn’t as dire and you simply slipped for a short period, our outpatient services are ideal and can accommodate your daily schedule (plus we’re a short drive from Camp Pendleton).
You’ll have access to our full team of professionals and therapeutic options to help you achieve recovery and pass your military drug test.
Various Forms of Therapy
Our forms of therapy are the real bread and butter of our program. We work closely with clients to develop a personalized treatment program that caters to your needs specifically.
Whether your drug of choice is cocaine, amphetamine, marijuana, or any other substance, we provide the following programs to help you succeed:
- Dual diagnosis. If your substance use is combined with a mental health disorder, we can help you overcome the underlying issue and get you back on track for a life of sobriety.
- Trauma informed care. If you’ve suffered from past trauma and are at risk for a diagnosis of PTSD or other trauma-centered disorders, we can help by providing you options to educate yourself and understand how to navigate these challenges.
- Family therapy. is available for those who have issues stemming from problems at home. We understand that military life is demanding and hard on the family unit – we can help you with the participation of your loved ones to help make your service period less stressful.
Put Your Worries in the Past: Contact South Shores Today
If you need assistance with your military drug testing and have TRICARE or other forms of insurance, we encourage you to contact us today to help get yourself on the course for healing and long-term recovery.
Get in touch with our Admissions team today to find out the steps you must take to enter our program. You can rest assured that all calls are completely confidential, so please reach out in confidence to get options for yourself or your loved one now!