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Military (DOD) Drug Test FAQs


DOD labs test 60,000 urine 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. 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.


This is a legal document Everybody who has had something to do with that sample signs it – 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 come up 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.


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.


Commonly available substances such as golden seal and lasix are often touted as magical substances that can mask drugs in urine. In fact, they can make it easier to get caught. These substances are diuretics, so if they’re taken before giving a urine sample they flush chemicals out of the body – right into the collection cup. Drugs are often more concentrated in the urine after a service member takes one of these substances.


And other “sure-fire” solutions are even worse for you. Some people drink vinegar. There are stories of some people drinking bleach. None of these will defeat the urinalysis test.


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.

What type of Drug Test do they do?

The military uses urinalysis drug testing to ensure that soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen aren’t under the influence of illegal drugs. There’s quite a bit of mystery surrounding the drug testing process. In this article, we take a look at seven secrets of military drug tests

How the results of drug tests can be used legally, depends upon the reason for the urinalysis test.


Random Testing. By regulation, each military member must be tested at least once per year. Reserve members must be tested at least once every two years. 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 court-martials (Under Article 1128a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice), article 15s (nonjudicial punishment), and involuntary discharges. 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.”

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 court-martials, article 15s, 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 Charts

You won’t get booted out of the military because you walked past someone in the dorm smoking a joint. The military testing labs use thresholds to rule out accidental exposure and testing errors. The standards used by the military are:






Information Courtesy of Department of Defense, the United States Navy, and the Manual for Courts-Martial

Steroid testing isn’t automatic

Contrary to popular belief, the military does not routinely test for steroids. Why? It’s too expensive. Commanders may only order steroid tests under special circumstances and must obtain prior permission. Samples requiring steroid testing bypass the normal military testing system and get shipped to the sports testing lab at UCLA for analysis.

Samples are tested, retested and tested again

The drug testing lab first performs a preliminary screening test on all samples using an Olympus AU-800 Automated Chemistry Analyzer. All negative specimens are discarded after this round. Any urine sample that shows a positive indication of drug use is retested using the same equipment. If that sample also provides a positive result, the lab uses gas chromatography to identify the specific drug in the urine sample. The lab reports a positive result only if all three samples test positive.


What does all that mean? Basically, there’s little chance they’re going to make a mistake.

Explanations of Blood, Hair and Saliva Drug Tests

Blood tests are a better detector of recent use, since they measure the actual presence of THC in the system. Because they are invasive and difficult to administer, blood tests are used less frequently. They are typically used in investigations of accidents, injuries and DUIs, where they can give a useful indication of whether the subject was actually under the influence.


Urine Test to perform a drug test on someone’s urine, a sample has to be collected in an examination cup, (often in a controlled environment). For immediate results, the test is performed with a test card. If the test calls for most sophisticated results, the urine is sent out to a testing facility and the results are given after a week or two.


The urine test is very reliable and is performed at most federally mandated facilities that require drug testing.


Hair tests are the most objectionable form of drug testing, since they do not measure current use, but rather non-psychoactive residues that remain in the hair for months afterwards. These residues are absorbed internally and do not appear in the hair until 7-10 days after first use. Afterwards, they cannot be washed out by shampoos (though shampoos may help remove external smoke particles that get stuck in the hair). Hair tests are more likely to detect regular than occasional marijuana use. One study found that 85% of daily users tested positive for marijuana, versus 52% of occasional smokers (1-5 times per week). Ingested cannabis was less likely to be detected than smoked marijuana. It is doubtful whether hair tests are sensitive to one-time use of marijuana.


Saliva testing is a newer, less proven technology. The sensitivity of saliva tests is not well established in the case of marijuana. In theory, they are supposed to detect recent use, but this may range from several hours to over a day. They are supposed to detect secretions from inside the oral tissues that cannot be washed out with mouthwash. Because they are less intrusive than blood or urine tests, the industry has been eager to develop saliva tests. Due to reliability problems, they have yet to gain acceptance in the U.S., but they have come into use in some other countries, such as Australia.