Prescription pill bottles

Military Policy and Treatment for Substance Use

To prevent and identify drug use among military personnel, Department of Defense policy requires service members to participate in random urinalysis testing. For those struggling with addiction, the military offers support. Here are the basics of its drug prevention program:

  • Random testing is just that — a computer program selects names, and if you're chosen, you're tested. Your commander can also order you to be tested if he or she suspects illegal drug use.
  • Military personnel who are asked to take a urine test must comply; failure to obey can result in disciplinary action.
  • Each branch of the military has its own substance abuse program, and if you test positive, the first step is typically to assess the extent of your substance use problem. Then, treatment recommendations follow.

Drug testing is required for all military personnel. In addition to the random urinalysis program, there are other types of testing:

  • Commanders can order probable cause testing when they have sufficient cause to believe you are using illegal drugs. Commander-directed testing is used when a commander suspects drug use but does not have direct probable cause.
  • You can choose voluntary consent testing before your commander orders a urine test. You can also tell your commander you have a substance use problem before you are selected for urinalysis. This is called self-identification testing.
  • You may be subject to unannounced urine tests, or rehabilitation testing, after you've received treatment for a drug or alcohol problem, to make sure you're staying sober. Your commander can stop the rehabilitation testing if you've begun a court-martial or other separation action.
  • Members of your unit may be tested as part of a routine inspection, or after a safety issue or accident occurs.

Intervention and substance use treatment

A service member who tests positive for illicit drug or alcohol use may be offered treatment and intervention services. After the initial assessment by a trained professional, a possible recommendation could be an inpatient detox treatment. Here are some points about the process:

  • Commanding officers and medical professionals must refer you for an assessment if they suspect a problem. Commanding officers must also refer you after you have a run-in with police, like driving while intoxicated or disorderly conduct.
  • You can get assessment and treatment services by reaching out for help with your drug or drinking problem. You may still face disciplinary action, depending on the situation.

Confidentiality and commander involvement

  • Your confidentiality is limited in some cases: Suspected child abuse, threats of harming yourself or others, court order and the commander's need to know are all instances in which a counselor would not be able to keep your information private. Many programs also require your partner to get involved in your treatment.
  • Your installation offers free counseling to service members. You also can seek help at a civilian facility. It is possible your commander could find out about your treatment through insurance claims or referral requests.
  • Your commander can check on your progress and the result of your treatment. Your commander can also ask for other information that may affect your fitness for duty.
  • Your commander's involvement is a positive thing. It's helpful to have other people's support to overcome a substance use problem. Your commander can help you stay on the right path after your treatment is over. The same holds true for your partner.

If you are coping with stress and are concerned that it might lead you to addictive behaviors, it’s better to reach out early, so that you can address issues before they become problems. Contact Military OneSource at 800-342-9647. If you or someone you know is in a state of crisis, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, then press 1. If you are struggling with addiction, the military has resources to help. Learn more about the programs available to you in Mental Health Benefits and Resources here on Military OneSource. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Note: Military OneSource does not provide medical counseling services for issues such as depression, substance abuse, suicide prevention or post-traumatic stress disorder. This article is intended for informational purposes only. Military OneSource can provide referrals to your local military treatment facility, TRICARE or another appropriate resource.