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Will My Military Application Reveal My Rehab History?

Last Updated: March 2, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Revealing your rehab history when applying for the military is the path to integrity.

Contemplating military service when you have a history of substance use can be fraught with concerns about disclosure. Many individuals with addiction backgrounds grapple with fears that seeking help might jeopardize their military ambitions. This common dilemma raises the critical question: “Will my military application reveal my rehab experience?”

Can the Military Access Your Rehab Records?

Enlisting in the military entails providing a comprehensive medical history to your recruiter. This involves authorizing the release of your medical records to the Department of Defense upon enlistment. Opting for full transparency regarding your substance use treatment history is crucial, as the military mandates full disclosure of your medical background.

It’s essential to bear in mind that a history of drug or alcohol addiction can lead to disqualification from military service. Your recruiting officer will scrutinize your medical history on a case-by-case basis, and in some instances, you may qualify for a medical waiver if a history of addiction poses a disqualifying condition.

Does Rehab Leave a Trace on Your Record?

Engaging in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program will not register on your criminal record in any capacity. Medical records are typically kept strictly confidential unless you grant consent for their release to a third party. While your rehab history won’t be featured on a criminal record or background check, a record of drug-related offenses may be accessible. If you’ve faced drug-related charges, the military can access this information during your enlistment application.

How Does Rehab Impact Your Military Prospects?

While the prospect of disclosing your substance use treatment history to the military may be daunting, transparency remains the wisest course of action. Demonstrating to your recruiter that substance use is no longer a concern can enhance your chances of military acceptance. Completing a rehabilitation program serves as a testament to your commitment to personal growth. Furthermore, the resilience required to overcome addiction is likely to be esteemed within the military community. 

Substance Use Among Active-Duty Military Personnel

Despite current drug use, including testing positive for illegal substances, being a disqualifying factor for military enlistment, it’s an unfortunate reality that active-duty military personnel can still experience addiction. The stresses associated with military life can lead to drug and alcohol misuse as coping mechanisms.

Alcohol Misuse in the Military

Research involving active-duty military personnel reveals concerning statistics, with nearly one-third of this demographic partaking in binge drinking. Over one-third exhibit signs of unhealthy drinking or probable alcohol use disorder. Combat exposure can result in trauma, prompting military members to turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism. Binge drinking rates among military personnel slightly surpass those in the general population.

In recognition of the high rates of unhealthy drinking within the military, Tricare, the healthcare system for active-duty personnel, expanded its treatment offerings in 2016 to encompass intensive outpatient care. Tricare’s website also features a tool for drug and alcohol assessments.

Illicit Drug Use in the Military

Surveys conducted among active-duty military personnel indicate that illicit drug use is rare, with less than 1% of military members reporting such involvement. However, prescription drug misuse is more prevalent within this demographic, with around 4% of active-duty personnel admitting to misusing one or more prescription medications.

The most commonly misused prescription medications in military circles are prescription pain relievers. A significant portion of opioid addictions in this group stems from the misuse of pain medications often prescribed to alleviate injuries sustained during time in the service. Recognizing the dangers associated with opioid misuse, the Department of Defense has initiated prevention campaigns.

The military also mandates a 26-panel drug testing regimen for active-duty personnel, which has recently been extended to include all military applicants. Individuals who fail two drug tests face permanent disqualification from military service.

Repercussions of Military Rejection Due to Substance Abuse

A positive drug test during the recruitment process can lead to rejection from the military. In some cases, you may be eligible to reapply after a 90-day waiting period, but a second positive test results in permanent disqualification. If you experience rejection after a second failed drug test, you won’t have the opportunity for reapplication.

This underscores the importance of seeking treatment. Completing treatment before pursuing a military career can mitigate the risk of relapse and the possibility of failing another drug test that would disqualify you from military service. If you believe that the military has unjustly rejected you due to a history of substance use and treatment, you have the option to appeal the decision made by your recruiter. This requires you to submit a written appeal to the appropriate branch of the service.

Treatment Options for Military Personnel Seeking Recovery

A plethora of treatment options awaits military personnel seeking help for addiction. Tricare insurance offers coverage for various services related to substance use disorders, which could include medication-assisted treatment, inpatient and residential services, medical detox, intensive outpatient care, and partial hospitalization programs.

At The Recovery Village Atlanta, we provide specialized groups tailored to address the specific requirements of military personnel. Our comprehensive spectrum of rehab services spans medical detox, inpatient and PHP care. Additionally, we offer co-occurring disorders treatment to meet the needs of military personnel contending with both addiction and co-occurring disorders such as PTSD.


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.