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Assessing Fitness for Military Enlistment: Physical, Medical, and Mental Health Standards
As with most moral character standards, the specific standards for alcohol and drug abuse are set by each Service, although there are some broad similarities across them. Generally, a history of more severe types of alcohol and drug abuse or dependence is disqualifying, but limited “recreational” use of marijuana does not now require a waiver. Prior to 1990, even limited use of marijuana required a waiver, but that waiver requirement was phased out by the Services during the early 1990s. Alcohol use does not require a waiver unless the recruit tests positive at the physical.
Between these two extremes, the Services distinguish several degrees of severity of drug and alcohol abuse, and there are some important differences among the branches. The specific standards for each level of severity are summarized in Table 7-1. The table shows that drug trafficking, the most severe abuse, is disqualifying for all Services, and alcohol dependence is disqualifying for all Services except the Navy (which requires a waiver if no longer dependent). All Services also agree that limited or recreational use of marijuana use does not require a waiver.
If an applicant has a positive test for drugs other than marijuana during the physical, the Air Force will disqualify but the other three Services will issue a waiver if the applicant reapplies one year later and the retest is negative. The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps will issue a waiver for a positive test for marijuana or alcohol if a retest is negative six months after the original positive test. The Air Force is more stringent and, in fact, a positive test for marijuana is disqualifying. The Air Force will issue a waiver for a positive alcohol test if the recruit gets treatment and is alcohol-free for two years.
Limited preservice use of drugs other than marijuana and alcohol has the most diverse standards. The Army does not require a waiver, while the Marine Corps will issue a waiver after the applicant fills out a drug abuse screening form. The Air Force will issue a waiver for nonnarcotics, such as amphetamines and barbiturates, but narcotics are disqualifying. Finally, the Navy also distinguishes between nonnarcotic and narcotic drugs. In the case of nonnarcotics, the Navy does not require a waiver if the use was more than one year prior to screening, but narcotics use requires a waiver if use was over one year prior. Use within the past six months is disqualifying.
Youth Characteristics and Supply Issues
Trends in Substance Abuse
Current enlistment standards reflect the reality that some consumption of alcohol is commonplace among youth, despite the fact that in most