One Failed Drug Test Highlights Drug Abuse in Navy

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

The failed drug test of Vice President Joe Biden’s son made plenty of headlines last week, but news of the salacious story fails to address a much larger problem – drug use in the Navy.

Hunter Biden, 44, reportedly failed a drug test for cocaine in June 2013. He was discharged from the Navy last February. Biden was commissioned as an ensign in May 2013 and assigned as a public affairs officer in a Norfolk, VA based reserve unit.

It was the honor of my life to serve in the U.S. Navy, and I deeply regret and am embarrassed that my actions led to my administrative discharge.-Hunter Biden
Hunter said in a statement: “It was the honor of my life to serve in the U.S. Navy, and I deeply regret and am embarrassed that my actions led to my administrative discharge. I respect the Navy’s decision. With the love and support of my family, I’m moving forward.”

A Zero Tolerance Policy Tested

Although the Navy has long held a “zero-tolerance” drug policy, that hasn’t stopped drug use from occurring on its ships. The synthetic cannabis drug known as “Spice” became a major problem in the Navy back in 2011. Sixteen carrier crew members were dismissed from duty for either using or selling Spice, another 64 sailors were booted for the same reason later that October, and another 28 sailors were caught in a Spice sting the following month.

The Navy’s Response

To help address this issue, the Navy announced a substance abuse prevention campaign in January 2012 entitled “Who Will Stand Your Watch?” The Navy also instituted random testing for synthetic substances in March 2012 and ended discounts for cigarettes at the services’ exchanges that same year.

Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Director Dorice Favorite said that substance abuse in the Navy “puts lives and missions at risk, and undercuts unit readiness and morale. Preventing substance abuse rather than dealing with the consequences benefits everyone.”

In February 2013, they took the unprecedented step of conducting random blood alcohol screenings on all sailors. Anyon-duty sailors with a blood-alcohol level of .04 or higher are not be allowed to work that day. Although the sailors will not be punished, they could be referred to a drug and alcohol counselor if deemed appropriate.

In February 2013, they took the unprecedented step of conducting random blood alcohol screenings on all sailors.

Shifting Attention to Prescription Addictions

The Navy then shifted its attention towards prescription drugs after 524 sailors tested positive for illegal prescriptions in the first seven months of the 2013 to 2014 fiscal year. Sailors between ages 18 and 25 accounted for 71 percent of these positive drug tests, despite comprising only 30 percent of the Navy.

A campaign was launched last May called “Prescription for Discharge” that encourages sailors to properly take their medications, dispose of any unused portions and report the use of all prescriptions.

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