The Military Drug Test Program
Military Drug Tests at MEPS, Military Active Duty, National Guard
The Department of Defense labs tests 60,000 urine random samples each month. All active duty members must undergo a urinalysis at least once per year. Members of the Guard and Reserves must be tested at least once every two years.
Protections and Sample Security
There are several protections built-in to the system to ensure accurate results. First, individuals initial the label on their own bottles.
The bottles are boxed into batches, and the test administrator begins a chain-of-custody document for each batch. There is even an observer present to watch you urinate into your bottle. This is a legal document everybody signs who had any contact with the bottle - whether it be the observer who watched the person collect the sample, the person who puts it into the box or the person who takes it out of the box. There is always a written record of who those individuals are.
The chain-of-custody requirement continues in the lab as well. People who come in contact with each sample and what exactly they do to the sample are written on the document.
After arrival at the lab, samples then undergo an initial immunoassay screening (using the Olympus AU-800 Automated Chemistry Analyzer). Those that test positive for the presence of drugs at this point undergo the same screen once again. Finally, those that are positive during two screening tests are put through a much more specific gas chromatography/mass spectrometry test.
This test can identify specific substances within the urine samples. Even if a particular drug is detected, if the level is below a certain threshold, the test result is reported back to the commander as negative.
DoD labs are equipped to test for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, LSD, opiates (including morphine and heroin), barbiturates and PCP.
But not all samples are tested for all of these drugs.
Every sample gets tested for marijuana, cocaine, and amphetamines, including ecstasy. Tests for other drugs are done at random on different schedules for each lab. Some laboratories do test every sample for every drug.
Steroids Are Tested Too
Commanders can request samples be tested for steroids. In this case, the samples are sent to the Olympic testing laboratory at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Over- the-counter cold medications and dietary supplements might cause a screening test to come up positive, but that the more specific secondary testing would positively identify the medication. In this case, the report that goes back to the commander says negative.
Types of Drug Tests in the Military
How the results of drug tests can be used legally, depends upon the reason for the urinalysis test. There are five types of drug tests below:
Random Testing. This is done by means of "random testing." Basically, a commander can order that either all or a random selected sample of his/her unit be tested, at any time. Results of random testing can be used in (Under Article 1128a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice), article 15s (nonjudicial punishment), and this includes using the results to determine service characterization (honorable, general, or other-than-honorable).
Members do not have the right to refuse random testing. However, commanders cannot order specific individuals to take a "random" test. Those selected must be truly "random." Typically, they will select the last number of the social security number as a select group.
Medical Testing. This is testing which is accomplished in compliance with any medical requirements. Urinalysis tests given to new recruits falls under this category. As with Random Testing, results can be used in court-martials, article 15s, and involuntary discharges, to include service characterization. Members do not have a right to refuse medical testing in the military.
Probable Cause. If a commander has probable cause that a person is under the influence of drugs, the commander can request a search authorization from the Installation Commander, who is authorized to issue "military search warrants" after consultation with the JAG.
Again, results of urinalysis tests obtained through search authorizations can be used in courts-martial, article 15, and involuntary discharges, including service characterization. Members cannot refuse to provide a urine sample which has been authorized by a military search warrant.
Consent. If a commander does not have probable cause, the commander can ask the member for "consent to search." If the member grants consent, the results of the urinalysis may be used in court-martials, article 15s, and involuntary discharges to include service characterization. Under this procedure, members do not have to grant consent.
Commander Directed. If a member refuses to grant consent, and if the commander does not have enough evidence to warrant a probable-cause search warrant, the commander may order the member to give a urine sample anyway. However, commander-directed urinalysis results may not be used for court-martial or article 15 purposes. The results MAY be used as a reason for involuntary discharge, but MAY NOT be used to determine service characterization. In other words, the member can be discharged, but what kind of discharge he/she receives (honorable, general, other-than-honorable) depends upon his/her military record (WITHOUT using the urinalysis results).
DOD Urinalysis (Drug Test) Cutoff Levels)
(Nanograms per milliliter)
(Nanograms per milliliter)
Heroin (6 MAM)
Drug Detection Windows
3 Days or Longer
Information Courtesy of Department of Defense, the United States Navy, and the Manual for Courts-Martial
For more information about the legal issues a positive drug test creates see Positive Military Drug Test