Drug Testing In the Air Force

Air Force Basic Training
••• US Air Force/Flickr

The Office of the Under-Secretary for Personnel and Readiness of the Department of Defense is responsible for initiating, testing, collecting, and processing drug tests for the entire military. The counternarcotics mission of the department is standardized throughout all the military branches. In fact, there are six drug testing laboratories across the nation and services. Formerly, each drug testing facility was responsible only for a single branch of service. Now, the six drugs testing facilities are regional and joint drug testing labs that facilitate the military counternarcotics testing mission.

The Six Testing Facilities around the United States are on military bases:

  • US Army, Tripler AMC, HI
  • US Army, Fort Meade, MD
  • US Navy, Great Lakes, IL
  • US Navy, San Diego, CA
  • US Navy, Jacksonville, FL
  • US Air Force, Lackland, TX

Drug Testing in the Air Force

All new Air Force recruits undergo a drug test upon joining. A recruit will take a urinalysis test within 72 hours of arrival at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). Generally, this test is done on day two of your arrival.

It takes about two to three weeks for the basic training command to get the results back. If you fail the urinalysis test, you will be immediately transferred to the transition flight, where you will do busy-work for a couple of weeks while the Air Force processes your discharge. There are ‚Äčno exceptions to this rule.

Types of Drugs Tested

There are many drugs that are tested and the military keeps up to date with the latest drugs on the street.  Here is a list of many of the drugs that are tested within the military drug testing labs:

  • Marijuana
  • Opiates: Morphine, Codeine, Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Hydrocodone    
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin                       
  • Amphetamines: Methamphetamine (Meth)
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Ecstasy  
  • PCP  /  LSD           
  • Synthetic Cannabinoids

Once you are a member of the military, regardless of service branch, you will be drug tested again. Typically, the drug tests are random drug tests that collect a random sample of a unit to be tested. For instance, all people in a unit where the last digit in their social security number is six will have to be tested that day.  A random drug test must be random and cannot have any influence as to who gets tested.  However, a commanding officer with probable cause can test the entire unit within his command, or an individual can also be searched with a military search warrant after the results of a drug test are known. 

Zero Tolerance

The Air Force has a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug abuse. No member of the military may refuse a drug test. Whether they are illegal drugs or prescription drugs, the military drug testing laboratories will find what has been recently in your system.  Drug tests are mandatory, and if you fail a drug test in basic training you will be discharged and you will never be allowed to rejoin the Air Force, the Air Force Reserves, or the Air National Guard in the future. If you fail a drug test at any time in your career, you will be discharged and likely prosecuted. Zero Tolerance means zero tolerance.  If there is a chance that you were legally given a prescription for any of the drugs on the list due to a medical procedure, that must be recorded in your medical record. Illegally obtaining medication without a prescription is just as illegal as buying drugs off the street from a drug dealer.

You might be able to join one of the other branches (except the Coast Guard) ‚Äčif they grant you a waiver, and after a mandatory waiting period (ranging from six months to two years, depending on the service).

The brutal truth is that drugs are a major societal problem in the United States and typically among military service aged people. The military is a cross-section of society, so having people in the military with prior drug issues or created drug issues while serving is not uncommon. A robust counternarcotic program within the military helps keep an already dangerous job from being more dangerous.