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DoD expands drug testing for military applicants

March 9, 2017 (Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The Defense Department will be expanding drug testing for military applicants to check for all drugs that are tested in active duty military members, according to DoD.

The change, set to take place on April 3, is meant to reflect “the level of illicit and prescription medication abuse among civilians, as well as the increase in heroin and synthetic drug use within the civilian population,” according to Army Col. Tom Martin.

Currently, military applicants are tested for illicit drugs and prescription drug abuse during their time at a Military Entry Processing Station, overseen by United States Military Entrance Processing Command, a joint service command.

All branches of the military — including the Coast Guard, National Guard, Air National Guard, reserves, appointees to the service academies, incoming members of the ROTC and officer candidates undergoing initial training in an enlisted status — require applicants to attend MEPS where they are either accepted or rejected for military service.

Military applicants are currently tested for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamine, designed amphetamines such as MDMA (also known as Molly or Ecstasy), and MDA (also known as Adam).

The expanded test will test for 26 drug types, including heroin, codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and a number of synthetic cannabinoids (also known as spice) and benzodiazepine sedatives.

Active members of the military are subject to random drug testing three times per year. The goal of the drug test expansion is to ensure that military applicants meet the same standard that are expected of service members.

"Military applicants currently are tested on a small subset of drugs that military members are tested on,” Martin said. “Applicants need to be aware of the standard we hold our service members to when they join the service.”

Roughly 279,400 applicants are processed for entry into military service each year, with around 2,400 of them failing drug tests. It is estimated that 450 additional people will test positive using the expanded testing.

Applicants who fail the new drug tests are allowed to reapply after 90 days at the discretion of the particular service. An applicant who tests positive for any of the drugs twice is permanently disqualified from military service in any branch of the armed forces.

Under the current policy, there are different standards for reapplication depending on the type of drug found in the applicants system. The updated policy allows for one opportunity to reapply, regardless of which drug (or drugs) the applicant tests positive for.
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