Alcohol use in the military

As a Service Member, it’s important to understand military policies on substance use and abuse. In addition, it’s important to make lawful and responsible choices when it comes to your personal alcohol use. And if you’re drinking too much, help is available. HPRC provides resources to help you with all these.

In general, you must be at least 21 years of age to buy or drink alcohol in the U.S. There might be exceptions in certain situations, especially if you’re serving abroad. However, make sure to check first with your Base Command.

Know your limits

Alcohol use sometimes can lead to risky drinking, which can affect your performance. According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the following alcohol-related offenses can lead to punishable consequences:

  • Drunkenness—incapacitation for performance of duties through prior wrongful indulgence in intoxicating liquor or any drug
  • Disorderly conduct, drunkenness
  • Drunken or reckless operation of a vehicle, aircraft, or vessel
  • Drunk on duty

Alcohol abuse, particularly regular or irresponsible alcohol use, can quickly lead to disciplinary action or even discharge. Learn more about military-wide policies and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment guidelines:

Be responsible

DoD has implemented several screening measures to help Commanders, Commanding Officers, and Officers in Charge identify Service Members who might be struggling with alcohol abuse. Reach out to your supervisor if you need to seek treatment. While alcohol misuse is serious, if you’re accountable and complete your treatment, it’s possible to return to duty.

Many branch-specific guidelines, assessments, and intervention programs can help guide you to make responsible choices or get help. Learn more about the different branch policies and resources:

For more information and help with managing your alcohol use, visit HPRC’s section on Substance Use.


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