Disclosing Rehab History When Enlisting in the Military

Last Updated: March 1, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

If you’re considering joining the military, you might have concerns about whether they’ll discover your past substance abuse treatment. Many individuals with a history of addiction worry that seeking help will negatively impact their military aspirations. The question often arises, “Will the military know if I’ve been to rehab?”

Can the Military Access Your Rehab History?

When you apply to enlist in the military, you’re required to provide a comprehensive medical history to your recruiter. This includes authorizing the release of your medical records to the Department of Defense. It’s advisable to be forthright with the military about your substance abuse treatment history since you must disclose your complete medical background.

It’s essential to note that a prior drug or alcohol addiction can be grounds for disqualification from military service. The recruiter assigned to your case will assess your medical history on a case-by-case basis. In some instances, you may be eligible for a medical waiver if disqualified due to a history of addiction.

Will Rehab Appear on Your Record?

Participating in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program does not become part of your criminal record. Medical records, including rehab history, are typically kept confidential unless you explicitly authorize their disclosure to a third party. However, a history of drug-related offenses might be accessible during the military enlistment process if you have faced drug-related charges.

How Can Rehab Enhance Your Military Prospects?

While revealing your substance abuse treatment history to the military may seem daunting, honesty is the best policy. Demonstrating to your recruiter that you’ve successfully overcome addiction can improve your chances of being accepted into the military. Completing rehab signifies your commitment to personal growth, and the resilience gained in recovery aligns with the values of military culture.

Substance Use Concerns in Active-Duty Military Personnel

Despite strict regulations against current drug use, including testing for illegal substances, active-duty military personnel are not immune to addiction. Drug and alcohol misuse sometimes serve as coping mechanisms for the stress associated with military life.

Alcohol Misuse in the Military

Research indicates that nearly one-third of active-duty military personnel engage in binge drinking, while over one-third exhibit signs of unhealthy drinking or probable alcohol use disorder. Exposure to combat-related trauma can lead military members to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. Binge drinking rates are slightly higher in military personnel compared to the general population.

To address 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 offers a drug and alcohol assessment tool.

Illicit Drug Use in the Military

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

Prescription pain relievers are the most commonly misused prescription medications among military populations, often stemming from the misuse of medications prescribed to address deployment-related injuries. Due to the associated risks, the Department of Defense has launched prevention initiatives.

The military also conducts mandatory 26-panel drug testing for active-duty personnel, which has recently been extended to all military applicants. Two failed drug tests result in permanent disqualification from military service.

Consequences of Military Rejection Due to Substance Abuse

A positive drug test during the recruitment process may lead to rejection from the military. While you may reapply after 90 days in certain cases, a second positive test results in permanent disqualification. Seeking treatment before applying to the military reduces the risk of relapse or failing another drug test that could disqualify you.

If you believe you’ve been unfairly rejected from military service due to a history of substance use and treatment, you have the option to appeal the decision. This entails submitting a written appeal to the appropriate branch of the service.

Available Treatment Options for Military Personnel

Military personnel seeking addiction treatment have various options. Tricare insurance covers a wide range of services for substance use disorders, including medication-assisted treatment, inpatient and residential care, medical detox, intensive outpatient programs, and partial hospitalization programming.

At The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper, our FORTITUDE program is tailored to meet the unique needs of veterans, service members and first responders. We offer specialized groups designed for this unique cohort and a comprehensive continuum of rehab services, including medical detox and inpatient care. Additionally, we provide co-occurring disorders treatment to address the needs of military personnel dealing with addiction and co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD. Our services are trauma-informed, ensuring quality veterans’ addiction treatment.


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. 

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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