Drug and Alcohol Use and Military Enlistment

Beer and 4th of July

Typically, any conviction prior to joining the military (drug or alcohol related) will be disqualifying and require a moral waiver to proceed with the recruitment process. 

Official Position

The United States Military does not condone the illegal or improper use of drugs or alcohol. It is the Department of Defense's stated contention that illegal drug use and abuse of alcohol, among other things:

  • Is against the law
  • Violates the high standards of behavior and performance expected of a member of the United States Armed Forces
  • Is damaging to physical, mental, and psychological health
  • Jeopardizes the safety of the individual and others

Past Drug and Alcohol Use and Recruitment

All applicants are carefully screened concerning drug and alcohol involvement. As a minimum, you can expect the recruiter to ask if you've ever used drugs or been charged with or convicted of a drug or drug-related offense.

They'll also want to know whether you've ever been "psychologically or physically dependent upon any drug or alcohol" and whether you've ever sold or trafficked illegal drugs.

If the answer to the last two items is "yes," then you're probably ineligible for enlistment. If the answer to the first two questions is yes, then you can expect 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.

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

In any case, dependency on illegal drugs is disqualifying, any history of drug use is potentially disqualifying and 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.

Air Force Enlistment and Past Marijuana 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 fewer than 25 requires a Drug Eligibility Determination. 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. More than 25 uses of marijuana are disqualifying and require 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. The best thing to do before entering the military is to avoid drugs and alcohol altogether, if you have plans to join the service after high school or before you are 21.