The US military undergoes drug testing just like any other safety sensitive job in the United States with one major difference. The US military and the navy in particular exercise a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse. This means that the entire process of testing is that much more critically and carefully observed in order to remove any member of the military branches who violates that policy.
How Does it Work?
• Each member of the armed forces undergoes at least one random drug test per year (in the Navy this is upped to 4 a month and in the Reserves once every two years and equals roughly 600,000 tests each month). This means that the drill instructor of every unit is able to call for either his entire unit or a part of his unit undergoes drug testing when he/she wishes. These results can be used in court martial and in the event of an involuntary discharge. While the drill sergeant can call for a random drug screen they can’t ask a specific person to be tested and the service member can’t refuse to submit to testing.
• When asked to submit to a drug test that member must first initial the test bottle then give the test sample under supervision.
• The officer in charge of supervising boxes them up in batches and begins a chain of custody document for every batch.
• From here on out anyone who handles that batch must add their name to the chain of command document. This continues into the test lab as well.
• Lab technicians record their names and what they do with the sample.
• Each sample undergoes immunoassay screening.
• Those that test positive are tested again using the same screening method.
• Those which test positive twice are then tested a third time by a gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry test which looks for specific substances in the urine.
• If the level is under a certain amount it’s reported negative if it’s above that level it’s officially a positive test. The DOD is capable of testing for marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, LSD, barbiturates, PCP and opiates but doesn’t always test for all of these drugs. All samples are tested for amphetamines, marijuana and cocaine and if a drill sergeant would like the sample is tested for steroids as well.
• If you are found to have a positive drug test, you will undergo punishment. This means you will undergo court marshal, discharge from the military and also the likelihood of undergoing criminal prosecution.
The military takes substance abuse very seriously. Under the influence of drugs and alcohol a service member is useless to his or her unit, requiring them to be monitored. In a combat situation this is not only tedious it is a liability that could get people killed either through lack of focus from the rest of the team or miscalculations on the part of the affected service member. Under no circumstances should a working unit of the military be so handicapped.