Understanding Drug Use In The Military

Drug use in the military is dangerous for many reasons. Since 1999, 17,000 people received a discharge from the US Military because of drug use. Failed drug tests have increased by 82% since 1999 in the Air Force and 37% in the Army. The Navy has discharged more than any other branch in the armed services for drug use. The most commonly used drugs within the military are marijuana, cocaine and other stimulates, and opiates.

Statistics of Drug Use in the Military

A 2008 Department of Defense survey of health-related behaviors among active military members stated that 2.3 % used an illicit drug in the past month. This is in comparison with the civilian population at 12%. Statistics of drug use in the military are surprising considering the zero-tolerance policy the military has for drug use. According to the previously mentioned survey, prescription drug abuse doubled among military personnel from 2002 to 2005 and tripled between 2005 and 2008. Drug use in the military is an ongoing issue the VA is addressing while personnel are developing negative coping mechanisms while enlisted. 

The percentage of prescription drug use is higher among service members compared to civilians. In 2008, 11% of service members reported misusing their prescription drugs. The most common prescriptions abused are opioid pain medications. Alcohol remains the most common substance abuse within the military culture. In 2019, 13.3% of active duty service members screened positive on the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test Consumption.

The military is trying to address these issues by offering screening materials that ask for voluntary participation and offer treatment options for those with substance abuse issues. The Department of Defense is continually issuing surveys to find the true scope of the drug abuse problem. 

Types of Drugs Commonly Abused in the Military

The type of drug use in the military continually references alcohol as being the number one substance of abuse. Marijuana and hashish or cannabinoids are commonly used before more dangerous drugs such as opioids, cocaine, and amphetamines. Abuse of legal prescriptions issued within the military for pain can be a beginning step for other substance abuse. Club drugs, MDMA (methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), flunitrazepam, and GHM, include the drugs ecstasy, Rohypnol, and gamma-hydroxybutyrate.

Drug use in the military is unacceptable with a zero-tolerance policy. However, the numbers continue to rise.

Can the Military Discharge You for Drug Use? 

Random drug tests enforce the zero-tolerance drug use policy. The military most generally does dishonorable discharges for those found to abuse drugs. When this happens to an enlisted military member, a black mark is put on record which can have negative effects on the Veteran’s future.

Drug use in the military is very dangerous as it can:

  • Risk one’s personal safety as drug usage can slow reaction times putting one at greater risk of receiving injuries or death
  • Put’s other military comrades in danger because of impaired judgments
  • Drug use provides an unhealthy environment disrupting the normal orderliness and streamlined military processes

Dishonorable discharges for drug abuse can render you ineligible for future service. The Veteran dishonorably discharged loses all military benefits. This black mark on record can also impede new job possibilities in civilian life.

Military Prescription Drug Policy 

Drug use in the military has made way for new rules and precautions concerning prescription medications. Prescriptions are good for a limited time frame and expire within six months from the issue date. Possession of drugs outside the time frame they were intended for or usage outside the prescribed recommendations can be deemed illegitimate and can be described as punitive and violations punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Possessing prescriptions medications with a prescription is also a violation. Soldiers learn about the reasoning for disposing of medications after they expire to avoid punishments. 

Drug usage in the military may result in a dishonorable discharge, but the Department of Defense also believes in offering treatment options to those affected. For those affected by legal prescriptions, there are options for avoiding dishonorable discharge. A treatment plan is made after evaluations and continued service can be an option once the addiction issue has been properly treated and eliminated. The VA offers many treatment options for this type of addiction issue.

Drug Treatment for Members of the U.S. Military

If you are facing prescription addiction issues and need advice or treatment to avoid future health issues, contact Sunrise Veterans Health. We can address your individual needs and addiction problems. We have experience serving Veterans and active military personnel and understand the problems faced with substance abuse while serving. Visit our admissions page to learn more.

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