Elimination of drug abuse in the military

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Gail Graise
  • 758th Airlift Squadron First Sergeant
     Being a military member and doing drugs is probably one of the quickest ways to ruin a career. With mandatory random drug testing, it’s only a matter of time before you get caught. 

     Two decades ago, the military was confronting a massive drug problem. In some outfits and overseas bases, the number of drug abusers topped 3.5 percent. In a few places the scourge had engulfed half of the personnel. Each military service had problems with illegal drug usage and the percentage rates showed it: Army, 29 percent; Navy, 33 percent; Marine Corps, 37 percent; and Air Force, 14 percent. 

     Upon assuming command of NATO forces in 1974, General Alexander Haig was appalled by the amount of drug abuse that he found among the American units in Europe. Ill trained, ill disciplined, sometimes disoriented military personnel were entrusted with some of the most sensitive and powerful technology in the American arsenal. 

     General Haig along with General Barry McCaffrey, the current White House drug czar took up arms in one of the military’s most successful operations—that war against the illegal drug epidemic which infected one in three soldiers. 

     Under General Haig’s leadership, the military, decided a “get tough” program to stop the menace was needed. Though many special programs were put into place on an urgent basis, the centerpiece of the effort in all the services was mandatory, random urinalysis; three million of which are performed annually. The root philosophy was one of deterrence more than detection.
     Today nearly twenty years after the program began the U.S. Armed Forces have come back from being nearly mortally wounded by drug abuse to being essentially drug free.
A survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense of health related behaviors among military personnel shows significant reductions in illicit drug use since 1980 moving the numbers from 27.6 percent to three percent in 1995. 

The above information was taken from excerpts in Gen. Alexander Haig’s autobiography and a Department of Defense Survey of Health Related Behaviors.