Failed Military Drug Test: Here’s Everything You Need To Know

US military personnel with US flag in behind

If you’re from the military, drug testing wouldn’t be a strange concept to you. Most service members understand that after a holiday break or leave of absence, you’ll most likely be subject to random drug tests. Drug tests are usually conducted once a year, regardless if you’ve been off duty or not.

Drug screening tests are a staple in the military service because all of the branches of the Military have a ‘zero tolerance’ approach towards the use of drugs. Moreover, it is known that military drug testing is near impossible to falsify. For this reason, a failed drug test might result in your removal from the military.

However, your military life isn’t over just because you test positive in the random drug testing program. With an experienced lawyer, you can fight the results of positive drug tests. Read on more to learn how to fight a positive drug test in the military.

Drug tests are mandatory while in service

What is a military drug test?

The Department of Defense (DoD) has no tolerance for the use of illegal drugs among service members. To ensure that all military personnel on active duty are alert and responsive when called to action, a drug screening test is conducted regularly.

Military drug tests are done quickly, so service members have little to no prep time for this procedure. Like in other random drug testing programs, military personnel is required to take urine tests to verify if they’ve been involved in drug use recently or not.

What does the military test for? This drug tests screen for the presence of substances such as marijuana, amphetamines, and cocaine. There are some cases wherein drug testing will also include screening for steroids, morphine, heroin, barbiturates, and LSD.

There are different reasons why the military requires servicemembers to undergo drug testing. These include the following:

  • Random drug testing. A commander can request select or all members of his or her unit to submit urine samples for testing. All requests must be purely random. The results of that testing procedure can lead to administrative and court marshall proceedings.
  • Probable cause. A commander can request that a specific servicemember be required to undergo drug testing. That commander must have probable cause to believe you are under the influence of drugs.
  • Medical testing. Sometimes, the military conduct drug testing for medical reasons. All new servicemembers are required to submit urine samples for testing. Servicemembers cannot refuse drug testing if the reason is for medical purposes.
  • Consent. A commander can request your consent to undergo a drug test. If you give your consent for this test to take place, the results can be used against you if you test positive.
  • By Order of Your Commander. Your commander can order you to undergo military drug tests if he or she wishes.

The urine sample is given to trusted third parties who are required to ensure that the urine sample gets transported to the laboratory safely and without error. Once the lab receives the test, the urine test for illicit drugs is conducted.

The drug testing procedure usually involves multiple processes, such as chromatography and mass spectrometry. These various processes ensure that the results are most certainly accurate. Failed drug tests can ruin a military personnel’s career. Thus, this procedure is done with nearly no room for error.

Once the drug test is complete, the results are transported to the commanding offer who requested for them. From there, necessary action will take place depending on the test results.

What Happens if You Fail a Military Drug Test?

If you come back with a failed military drug test, it doesn’t automatically mean that you’re forced to be discharged from active duty. There are numerous courses of action that the military can take, and this depends on the military branch in which you’re enlisted.

Some branches would require that personnel to undergo a second test 90 days after the positive test results were found. If you fail this second drug test, this can be grounds for military discharge. This second drug test is not an option for all members, after all. Regardless of what military branch you serve under, a failed drug test can mean disciplinary action is taken against you.

What Happens if You Fail a Military Drug Test?

Will your military career be halted if you fail the drug test?

After a service member takes a drug test, the urine samples are taken to a laboratory. Once the sample arrives, it will undergo an immunoassay screening. This procedure will indicate drug presence as either positive or negative. Those that come back positive have to undergo the same screening to prove the results’ accuracy.

To put things into perspective, a person must ingest a certain level of drugs for the drug test to return positive. Even if there is drugs in someone’s system, if the level is below a certain requirement, the result will come back negative. If you’ve tested positive, this signifies that you have failed that particular drug test.

So what happens if you fail a drug test? Generally speaking, military personnel are able to retake a failed drug test when at a Military Entry Processing Station (MEPS). Depending on what branch of the military you’re serving, recruits who test positive may be able to reapply 90 days after their previous test. However, if you test positive again in that second test, you won’t be able to apply for the military anymore.

How To Fight A Positive Drug Test In The Military

What happens if you fail a drug test? You don’t automatically get discharged from service. You can fight for your career with the help of an experienced military lawyer. One way to refute the results of drug testing is to show proof that you unknowingly ingested that particular drug.

If the test comes back positive, the government must possess more evidence other than the positive urinalysis testing. If the member happened to consume the drug without their knowledge, that case may be considered misconduct and may allow an unknowing/innocent ingestion defense.

It would be wise for military members to enlist an experienced military lawyer in case their drug test comes out positive for various reasons. As long as you give an accurate and extremely honest account of what might have happened to result in your positive result, a good lawyer can be of service and help you fight for your career. Every case will undergo investigation, which may involve the following:

  • Reviewing the testing procedures at the laboratory where your test was conducted.
  • Determining which medications may have triggered your false-positive result.
  • Reviewing how your urine sample was collected, transported, stored, and guarded during the entire testing process.
  • Analyzing the urinalysis testing for inaccuracies and possible problems.

There’s also the possibility that there were collection or testing errors while handling your military sample. To put things into perspective, the Department of Defense provides very detailed and specific instructions for how to test administrators should conduct and handle each testing procedure. Any deviation, however slight, from these instructions can cause some doubt about the accuracy of the test results.

USA flag


How to fight a positive drug test in the military? You need the help and counsel of an experienced military lawyer to help you fight for your career in case you fail a drug test. Considering the severe consequences of what happens if you fail a drug test, you need someone who understands military law completely and can give you a fighting chance to protect your career.

While failing a drug test can mean severe consequences for a military career, your military life isn’t automatically over once the drug testing results come in. You still have a fighting chance to save your career if you play your cards right.


Can you dispute a positive drug test in the military?

Yes, in fact, there are several ways for you to dispute a positive test result to save your military career. It would be best to get counsel from a military lawyer for the best advice.

What is the cut off level for military drug test?

For marijuana, the cut off level is 50 ng/ml. Cocaine has a level of 150 ng/ml, while Amphetamine has a 500 ng/ml cut off level.

Can you go to jail for failing a military drug test?

More often than not, positive test results are resolved through administrative processing for separation.

What are the consequences of failing a drug test in the military?

You may be discharged from service if your test positive for a drug test. However, there may be a chance that you’ll be given a second try to check your status.

What kind of discharge do you get for failing a drug test in the Army?

Failing a drug test in the Army may result in a discharge, which can range from a general discharge to an other-than-honorable discharge or a dishonorable discharge, depending on the circumstances surrounding the drug test failure and the service member’s military record.

Is drug use a dishonorable discharge?

Positive drug tests may result in dishonorable discharge, as per NIDA.