How Often Does the Military Drug Test? – (2023 Updated)

Written by

John Cotton


Logan Miller

how often does the military drug test

When it regards promoting discipline and readiness, the military has a reputation for its intense rules and regulations. A key aspect of this involves guaranteeing that military personnel do not take illegal drugs.

Drug testing is a common practice in the military, but how often does the military drug test?

New recruits will be tested upon entering the military, and active-duty members are subjected to at least once a year.

To discuss further, we’ll explore what military drug test for, the frequency of drug testing in the military, how often reserves get drug tested, what happens if the results are positive, and more.

Purpose and Process of Military Drug Testing


Military drug testing was implemented by the DoD, and it is meant to screen all active-duty members for illegal drugs.

Military members barely have time to prepare for drug tests since it takes place abruptly and randomly. They are subjected to urine tests to determine whether or not they recently consumed drugs.

Usually, at any point throughout their military career, service members must abide by drug testing regulations.

They must submit to drug testing annually without any preparation beforehand, or there will be consequences.

Frequency of Drug Tests


The frequency of drug tests in the military might vary based on a number of variables.

Take into account the drug’s detection window, the amount of times drugs are used in a month, and the frequency of times a year urinalysis samples are collected at random.

Fact: The Navy implements a zero-tolerance policy concerning drug and alcohol abuse.

As you can see, drug use is discouraged, and the military’s reputation as a drug-free organization is upheld.

1. Regular drug testing schedule for active-duty personnel

There are different schedules of drug testing for each military branch. As stated earlier, drug testing for active-duty personnel happens once a year.

Here is how the random drug testing process works for every military member:


  1. Your commander will contact you and tell you to come see them.
  2. You’ll be asked to fill out some papers when you arrive when submitting a sample of your urine. The paperwork requires your signature and the time you accepted the order.
  3. The next step is to come to the area or office where you will submit your urine sample. You need to get there quickly since there is a certain time frame to submit back the urine sample.
  4. When you go to the testing area, you should remove your military jacket. Your designated military observer will give you a urine cup and accompany you as you use the restroom.
  5. You should expect close attention as the observer watches you urinate into the provided cup.
  6. After you’ve finished urinating, wash your hands, and bring your urine sample to the designated military personnel at the urine testing area.
  7. Observe as your cup is sealed and put in the box to transport to the lab analysis.
  8. Finally, the army urinalysis result time is around 1 to 3 days to return to the military.

2. Factors that determine the frequency of drug testing


The Department of Defense (DOD) conducts random drug tests on its military members in an effort to prevent the abuse of legal and illegal drugs.

How many times do you have to undergo a drug test? According to DoD guidelines, everyone must get drug tested in the military.

DoD laboratories analyze around 60,000 monthly random urine samples.

The military test your urine for the presence of one or two substances:

  • Amphetamines
  • Methamphetamines
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Steroids
  • LSD
  • Heroin
  • Barbiturates
  • Morphine
  • Ecstasy
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Temazepam
  • Oxazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Alpha-Hydroxy-Alprazolam
  • Hydrocodone

How the command can utilize positive results from urine tests is dependent on the situations during which the samples were collected.

3. Factors that often influence military urinalysis collections are listed below:


  • Random Urinalysis Test – this is the most common basis for the frequency of drug testing in the military. Read the further information about random drug testing below.
  • Consent Urinalysis Test – your commander can ask for your consent to administer a drug test. Every military personnel is within their rights to refuse to provide a urine sample.
  • Probable Cause Urinalysis Test – the commander can request a military member to give a sample of urine if there is probable cause to believe the individual has taken some drugs.
  • Commander-Directed Urinalysis Test – this type of urine test is when your commander can ask for a sample of their urine to assess a service member’s preparedness for duty, medical care, or to require rehabilitation.
  • Medical Urinalysis Test – in this type of urine test, the results could be needed for medical purposes of the military member.

Random Drug Testing and Its Purpose


The commander randomly picks participants for the urine test. Urine samples are analyzed as part of a drug abuse screening program.

They are kept at a DoD lab or another approved by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness.

  • Pre-Accession Drug Testing

The pre-accession drug testing is done when an individual needs to be tested for a medical condition.

In terms of military service, when a military member is found to have a mental health diagnosis, this could lead to disqualification, and they are not fit to serve in the military.

  • Post-Incident Drug Testing

The post-incident drug testing is done when an individual causes an incident in their workplace. It will help determine whether alcohol or other drug use was a contributing factor to that particular incident.

  • Regular and Periodic Drug Testing

Regular and periodic drug testing happens once a year for all military branches. In the Army, they are required to submit to the army drug test before, during, and after basic combat training.

In fact, random drug testing is conducted once a month at a rate of 10 percent per Army Regulation 600-85. Each week, commanders must pick 5% – 10% of their battalion’s entire size at random for testing.

Consequences of Failing a Drug Test

After a urine sample has been tested under each of the required abuse testing conditions, it can either:


  • Negative Test Result – When none of the three tests detect the presence of a chemical, then the urine test was negative. In addition, this has been confirmed and validated by expert inspections.
  • Positive Test Result – Initial screening tests that provide a positive result are considered for further evaluation.

The findings will be checked during the second screening, and if needed, the lab is contacted for a second confirmation test.

When your urine test comes out as drug-positive urinalysis for the first time, you might face the following:

  • Some disciplinary actions
  • Suspension
  • A court-martial

If the results still come out to be positive after retaking the test, then that will be the time you potentially be:

  • Discharged from the military (no military benefits)
  • May be sent to a rehab center

Enhanced Drug Testing Programs

Ever since the drug testing programs were implemented, the percentage of military members who use drugs has decreased significantly. It is now significantly smaller than the number of people who use drugs in everyday society.

From 25% of military personnel using illegal drugs, the drug testing programs of the military brought it down by 3% in recent years.

For instance, the marine corps drug testing program’s stricter screening led to positive drug tests decreases from 4,776 positive individuals in 2009 to 1,216 in 2019.


Frequently Asked Questions


How long does a positive drug test result stay on record?

The Department of Defense secures a military member’s positive drug test results for over three years and negative results for one year.

Can prescription medications affect drug test results?

Yes, it can affect drug test results. Some medications can trigger a false positive result which means there is a presence of illegal drugs in your system.

If this happens, however, you have to report your medical background and if there are medications you are taking at the moment.

How often do reserves get drug tested?

The army reserve drug tests have a frequency of once every two years. However, the commander can choose to test the reservist more frequently than once every two years if there is probable cause for suspicion.


Being in the military is tough; that’s why a certain percentage of soldiers use drugs.  However, the military’s drug testing program continues to evolve, and tougher rules are implemented to discourage military members from using illegal drugs.

By now, you have grasped how often does the military drug test. If you wish not to be disqualified or get kicked out of the military, you need to take the drug tests’ frequency and consequences very seriously.

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