Waivers for Positive Drug Tests by Army Applicants

It's possible to get a second drug test, but not guaranteed

Medical personnel hand holding a Urine sample bottle

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Like all other branches of the U.S. military, the Army requires incoming recruits to be tested for illegal drugs at a Military Entry Processing Station, or MEPS. This is where potential soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, and other would-be members of the military are evaluated.

MEPS is where military applicants are either accepted or rejected for enlistment. It's administered under the purview of the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command.

Recruits will take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test to determine which job they're most qualified for in the military, and will undergo medical examinations, which include a urine test to screen for drugs. 

What Drugs Does the Military Screen For?

The Department of Defense expanded its drug testing for applicants to include screening for all the drugs tested in active duty military members; previously they were only tested for cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol. 

In addition to being tested for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamine, the current testing includes other highly addictive substances such as heroin, morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and codeine, among others. With opioid use on the rise across much of the country, the military is keen to weed out (no pun intended) as many drugs as possible.

These are the substances that active military members are tested for three times a year.

Failing the MEPS Drug Test

The first time an applicant fails the drug screening, he or she has to wait 90 days and then may reapply with a waiver at the discretion of the particular branch of the military to which he or she is applying. 

Be advised: This sounds like a quick and easy process, but it's not guaranteed. There's no requirement that the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines must allow someone who tested positive for drugs to re-test. Considering that the majority of recruits pass the drug screen the first time, there needs to be a good reason to allow someone who tests positive for drugs to take the test again.

The military used to have different reapplication rules for different drugs, but under the current policy, an applicant has one chance to reapply no matter which drug or drugs is found in his or her system.

Testing positive for any of the banned drugs more than once is grounds for permanent disqualification for any branch of the U.S. military. 

Drug Testing Rules for Prior Service Personnel

​Prior service personnel who test positive at MEPS for any illegal drug or alcohol are permanently disqualified. There are no waivers available for those personnel; the reasoning is that they should already know the rules, and know that drug use is a reason to deny entrance to the Armed Services.

Testing Positive for Drugs

All applicants who test positive will be required to have a police record check conducted as part of the waiver process regardless of any admission or record of civil offenses.

Applicants with an approved drug or alcohol test waiver (meaning they've failed their first drug test) are prohibited from enlisting in any military occupational specialty (MOS) or option that requires a security clearance.