Is my military career over if I have a positive UA? | – Leader Development for Army Professionals

Is my military career over if I have a positive UA?

I used illegal drugs once and failed the urine analysis test–is my Army career over?

Short answer:  Most likely / bordering on definitely.

During the current downsizing of the Army, every misconduct is being scrutinized.  A positive UA is a definite detractor from your career.  IAW AR 635-200 and AR 680-35 (ASAP) separation proceeding must be initiated for drug use.  If you are a first term Soldier I would say there is a 99.9% chance you will be separated.  However, the final determination is up to the Separation Authority, normally the first Colonel in your chain of command.

The only way I could see a Soldier even being considered for retention by the separation authority is if the following were true:

  1. The Soldier had no other misconduct, ever, and the positive UA was for THC (marijuana) and not a drug such as cocaine or heroin.
  2. The Soldier has an over abundance of exceptional service which would outweigh the one drug use.  Multiple deployments, purple heart, etc.
  3. Your entire chain of command up to and including your Battalion CSM and CDR recommend retention to the separation authority.

Even having said that, retention is usually not an option for NCOs. It would be near impossible to lead Soldiers, especially if you were to stay in the same unit, after having an article 15 for drug use. Not to mention the negative effect it would have on the morale, good order, and discipline of the unit. NCOs are held (and rightly so) to a higher standard than junior enlisted Soldiers.

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and any views presented are my own and are not to be
interpreted as legal advice. Furthermore, my views do not necessarily
represent the views of DoD or its Components.

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posted on 08/20/2012 under Q&A
Staff Sergeant(R) Douglas “Eck” Eckstein is a former Paralegal NCO with over eleven years of service in the Army. He has served overseas tours in Korea and Iraq. Eck served on active duty for seven years working in the personnel administration field then, after a break in service, returned to active duty in 2009 when he earned the Military Occupational Specialty, 27D (paralegal). He has worked in the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate from Division level down to unit level. He has expertise in all aspects of military law, with extensive emphasis in Administrative Law and Soldiers Rights. “I am not an attorney and any views presented are my own and are not to be interpreted as legal advice. Furthermore, my views do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its Components.”

Disclaimer: Though all content posted on is reviewed by our qualified subject matter experts, you should not make decisions based solely on the information contained in this post. Use information from multiple sources when making important professional decisions. This is not an official government website.

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  • Jen

    my husband is in the med board process his orders where cut yesterday with his out date. He found out last week that he tested positive for codeine which was a mistake he took my cough med with codeine instead of his cough med. now his company is holding his dd-214 until he goes and talk to someone about the drug test next week. Are they allowed to hold his orders from him? and can they completely stop him from getting his med board since it is complete and his dd-214 has already been cut, since he failed the drug test?

    • Eck

      My understanding from when I went through the med board process is that once the orders are cut, the action is complete. The unit cannot stop the med board. However, they can give your husband an article 15 for testing positive and take rank/pay. He needs to speak to the Office of Legal Counsel on your installation. He will know who they are. If the unit presents him with an Article 15, he can turn it down and elect to take a court-martial. I doubt if the unit would put the expense of time and labor to court-martial your husband, but there is always that chance. Bottom line – he needs to speak with his legal counsel at the Office of Legal Counsel and if presented with an Article 15, then he needs to speak with a TDS attorney. I hope this helps.

  • James

    My ets from the national guard is in two weeks I got drunk at a party and smoked some weed given that I have a one day drill coming up here this weekend if I get drug tested and pop hot will I be in trouble or will they just say screw it he’s getting out.
    I’ve been a good Joe for 6 years and this is the first time I’ve messed up as far as drugs…funny how it happened so close to getting out.

    • Mark Gerecht

      Depends on the command. There is a small possibility your could be held over but I believe they would have to go with a court martial to hold your over. They could potentially go for an Article 15 if they could get it processed fast enough. Both courses of action are unlikely given the small potential for a urinalysis. In addition the test would usually not be back from the lab in the time you indicate.

      Would have just been better to follow the rules until you completed your commitment. Part of being a Soldier is being trustworthy in word and deed.

      Hope this Helps!
      Did you find this information useful? I appreciate your feedback!

  • Anonymous

    Im a pfc currently active duty 2 years of service i poped hot for cocaine my chain of command has realy supported me through my process i went to tds to review my chapter they recommended honorable discharch with that being said i know there is a posabilty for retention cuz its my first and only offence ive received coins for exalince in the field and am workin on a letter to present to the board aswell as from my chain of command and civilian secter do i stand a chance

  • Anonymous

    I recently failed a UA for oxycodone and oxymorphone. Ivwas in pain and my sister in law gave me the pills I have never failed a UA in my 8 year career and was on multiple deployment’s. What are my chances of staying in the army?

  • matthew

    Question sir,
    I was involved in a long investigation with air force office of special investigation back in 2007 with a group of airman who were bringing and using drugs on base. I was just friends with them and one night i smoked a little pot but not even enough to get high. Our commander had us all under investigation and command directed a urinalysis immediately. I went to the ADC and got a lawyer immediately. Great captain whole was completely honest with about everything. The ROI came in after about 5 months and my UA was negative i peed clean. However at the time I didn’t want to stay in transition flight for 8 more months for a chance to plead my case so my lawyer said with me having admitted only once by a very shifty pressured admission by the special investigators. He said i had a very solid air tight case with the clean UA however he understood i just wanted to get out at that point and move on with a separation and an under than honorable discharge. Now how hard would it be for me to get that changed and upgraded so I could eventually join army etc?

    Thanks for your help sir.


    • Eck

      If you received a “general, under honorable conditions” you may just need a waiver to enlist in the Army. However, if you received an Other Than Honorable discharge you will have to apply to the Air Force Board For Correction of Military Records (AFBCMR) to have your discharge rating upgraded. See:

      To make sure, you can always go see an Army recruiter and take your discharge documents with you. They will have the most current information to let you know if you can enlist or what you need to do to be able to enlist.

      I hope this helps.


  • Paul S.

    If I failed a UA in 2009 (age 21, Rank: PFC) for THC and was honorably discharged but told I was able to reenlist after 12mo. Would I be able to reenlist now in 2015? I would very much like to and could use some advice on any possible outlets to go about doing so. Thank you.

    • Eck

      If you received an honorable discharge in 2009, the UA should have no impact on reenlisting today. That is not to say you definitely can reenlist though. With the draw down of troops, those guidelines may have changed. Speak to your local recruiter office to get the facts. They will have the most current information.

      I hope this helps.


  • Runnmann

    Hey I got a dwi about a year ago and tried to re enlist to go ti a different duty station the other day and some kind of code popped up and my career counselor aaid it hinders me from doing special duties or pcsing to a new unit so basically I would be stuck at the same unit but I already took all my punishment and paid of tickets and everything was wondering if you could maybe sged a little light on what I should do to get it off

    • Eck

      A lot depends upon if your case was handled in civilian court or via the unit through UCMJ. (Normally UCMJ is only used OCONUS). You need to contact your S-1 and see what is on your records. Your ERB should show your re-up codes. Your retention code and a FLAG code are two different items.

      If all of your punishment has been completed then you should not be flagged for this incident. However, if a bar to reenlistment was placed on you as a result of receiving the DUI, then you would have to speak to the imposing commander to get it removed. This is an issue best addressed to your battalion S-1 and battalion retention NCO.

      As far as the legal side, as previously stated, as long as all punishment, including suspensions, have been complete, you should not be flagged.

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