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Joining the Military

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Military Alcohol and Drug Disqualifications


Before joining the military you will have to undergo a series of tests and examinations to determine if you are fit to serve. The list of disqualifications if fairly substantial and it has gotten much more difficult to join the military than it used to be. For example, you can’t be a single parent and join the military and if you have ever had a DUI, you will probably be disqualified and unable to join.

Your recruiter will ask you a series of questions related to drug and alcohol use in your past. If you lie and the military finds out about it later, they have the power to send you packing with a dishonorable discharge or worse. As a service member, you fall under the rules and regulations of the military and they can be pretty harsh. On the other hand, if you tell the recruiter your past use in vivid detail, you might be disqualified from joining the military. If your past drug or alcohol use was very casual, you can probably get a waiver and be allowed to join. The best way to approach this is to be honest.

Drug and alcohol disqualifications are largely determined by two urinalysis tests that you will take when you join the military. The first test will take place at the induction station and the second will occur when you report to boot camp.

Alcohol or drug dependence and any evidence of this in your physical exam will get you disqualified from joining the military. These clear-cut cases are not the most common. Non-dependent drug use is more common and less clearly definable. The military would prefer that none of their service members used alcohol or did any drugs in the past, but that is not a reality. The military is more lenient towards alcohol use and soft drugs like marijuana than it is towards hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. Steroids are also on the list of drugs that you will be tested for and could cause you to be disqualified.

Any non-dependent drug use that has been documented by authorities or required professional physical or psychiatric care will also get you disqualified. Any evidence of drugs or alcohol during your examination will get you disqualified. The repeated use or self-procurement of any drug or the evidence of drugs or alcohol affecting your work, academic performance, mental health, family life or financial situation will get you disqualified. The use of LSD within the last two years is another disqualifier.

If either your drug or urine test comes back positive you will be disqualified. If the test showed alcohol or marijuana (THC) you will be allowed to retest in six months. Should your test show something stronger, you will be allowed to retest in one year. In either case, if your retest is negative showing no drugs or alcohol in your system, you can enlist with a waiver. (If your retest is positive, you might want to think about joining rehab instead of the military! You can then try to enlist again in two years.) The Recruiting Battalion Commander or Executive Officer can approve the waiver in cases where there is one positive test. If the applicant has tested positive for drugs or alcohol twice, the waiver must be approved by the Commanding General or the Recruiting Command of the section of the military you are joining.

If you join with a waiver, you will have to remain very clean during the entire course of your service. Once you have been allowed to join the military, if you get in a fight or become violent after drinking too much and an alcohol waiver is found in your records by your commanding officer, you could be in big trouble.

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