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Will Military Authorities Discover My Rehab History?

Last Updated: March 1, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

When applying for military service, complete honesty about your rehab history is crucial.

If you're contemplating joining the military but have a history of substance abuse, you might wonder if they will uncover your past treatment. Many individuals with addiction concerns fear seeking help due to fears about employers discovering their addiction history. This dilemma often leads potential military recruits to ask, "Will the military know if I've been to rehab?"

Can the Military Unearth Your Rehab Records?

To enlist in the military, you're required to furnish your complete medical history to your recruiter. This entails authorizing the release of your medical records to the Department of Defense when you decide to enlist. The best course of action is to be honest with the military about your history of receiving substance use treatment, as they mandate disclosure of your entire medical history.

It's essential to remember that a history of drug or alcohol addiction can be grounds for disqualification from military service. The recruiter handling your case will evaluate your medical history on a case-by-case basis. In some instances, you may qualify for a medical waiver if you're disqualified due to a history of addiction.

Does Rehab Appear on Your Record?

Participating in a drug or alcohol rehab program will not appear on your criminal record in any way. Medical records are typically kept confidential unless you authorize their release to a third party. While your rehab history won't surface on a criminal record or background check, a history of drug-related offenses may be visible. If you've faced drug-related charges, the military can access this information when you apply for enlistment.

How Does Rehab Enhance Your Military Prospects?

Though you may be concerned about disclosing your history of substance use treatment to the military, honesty is the best policy. Demonstrating to your recruiter that you’re recovering from substance use increases your chances of being accepted into the military. Completing rehab showcases your commitment to personal growth, and the resilience required to conquer addiction is highly valued in military culture.

Substance Use Among Active-Duty Military Personnel

While current drug use, including testing positive for illegal substances, can disqualify you from military service, active-duty military personnel are not immune to addiction. Drug and alcohol misuse can become coping mechanisms for the stress associated with military life.

Alcohol Misuse in the Military

Research involving active-duty military personnel reveals that nearly one-third of this population engages in binge drinking, and over one-third exhibit signs of unhealthy drinking or probable alcohol use disorder. Combat exposure can lead to trauma, and military members may resort to drinking as a coping mechanism. Rates of binge drinking are slightly higher in military personnel compared to the general population.

In response to the high rates of unhealthy drinking in the military, Tricare, the health system for active-duty personnel, expanded its treatment offerings in 2016 to include intensive outpatient care. Tricare's website also features a drug and alcohol assessment tool.

Illicit Drug Use in the Military

Surveys conducted with active-duty military personnel indicate low rates of illegal drug use, with less than 1% of military members reporting engagement in illicit drug use. However, prescription drug misuse is more prevalent, with around 4% of active-duty personnel reporting misuse of one or more prescription medications.

The most commonly abused prescription medications in military populations are prescription pain relievers. Most opioid addictions in this group originate from the misuse of pain medications often prescribed to alleviate deployment-related injuries. In response to the risks associated with opioid misuse, the Department of Defense has initiated prevention efforts.

The military has also mandated a 26-panel drug testing protocol for active-duty personnel, which has recently been extended to all military applicants. Individuals who fail two drug tests are permanently disqualified from military service.

Consequences of Military Rejection Due to Substance Abuse

Failing a drug test during the recruitment process can lead to rejection from the military. While some instances allow reapplication after 90 days, a second positive test results in permanent disqualification. If you're rejected following a second failed drug test, you won't have the opportunity to reapply.

This underscores the importance of seeking treatment. Completing treatment before applying to join the military can reduce the risk of relapse and the chances of failing another drug test that would disqualify you from military service. If you believe the military has unfairly rejected you due to a history of substance use and treatment, you have the option to appeal the decision made by your recruiter. This involves submitting a written appeal to the appropriate branch of the service.

Treatment Options for Military Personnel Struggling with Addiction

Numerous treatment options are available for military personnel seeking help for addiction. Tricare insurance covers a wide range of services for substance use disorders, including medication-assisted treatment, inpatient and residential services, medical detox, intensive outpatient care, and partial hospitalization programs.

At The Recovery Village Kansas City, our comprehensive rehab services include medical detox, inpatient care, outpatient services, and co-occurring disorders treatment for military personnel facing both addiction and co-occurring disorders like PTSD. Our services are trauma-informed, ensuring high-quality addiction treatment for veterans.

Sources

Department of Defense. “Medical Standards for Military Service: Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction.” May 6, 2018. Accessed November 10, 2023. 

Code of Federal Regulations. “Title 32- National Defense.” May 27, 2015. Accessed November 10, 2023. 

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “General Risk of Substance Use Disorders.” October 2019. Accessed November 10, 2023. 

Ferdinando, Lisa. “DoD Implements Expanded Drug Testing for Military Applicants.” U.S. Department of Defense, March 9, 2017. Accessed November 10, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Defense. “Appealing a Military Recruiting Decision.” August 23, 2021. Accessed November 10, 2023. 

Tricare. “Substance Use Disorder Treatment.” October 3, 2018. Accessed November 10, 2023.