Alcohol & Drug Abuse


Alcohol and Drug abuse

Alcohol and drug abuse is often associated with distress and are often linked to a wide array of other problems that degrade mission effectiveness and personal quality of life. People undergoing stressful life events may turn to alcohol to help alleviate their distress and to cope with problems. While the Navy maintains a "zero tolerance" policy for drug use, leaders should make every reasonable effort to retain Sailors when problems with alcohol surface and help them return to full productivity, and to a healthy lifestyle.

Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation Program (SARP)

The primary objectives of the SARP are:

  • To promote readiness, health, and wellness through the prevention and the treatment of substance abuse.
  • To prevent the negative consequences of substance abuse to the individual, family, and organization.
  • To provide comprehensive education and treatment to individuals who experience problems attributed to substance abuse.
  • To return identified substance abusers to unrestricted duty status or to assist them in their transition to civilian life, as appropriate.

Every opportunity should be taken to ensure that supervisors are trained to understand the negative impact of substance abuse on the mission, to identify the warning signs of abuse, and to know how to refer Sailors for assessment and/or treatment. Leader's suspecting alcohol problems must refer the Sailor to the Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor (DAPA) and/or SARP for an evaluation. Additionally, Sailors with alcohol problems who have not yet gotten into trouble (i.e., alcohol-related incidents) should be encouraged to voluntarily seek help without fear of negative consequences.

Warning Signs of Problem Drinking

Primary signs of problem drinking in a Sailor include:

  • Alcohol odor on their breath
  • Appearing intoxicated during duty hours
  • Appearing "hung over" on multiple occasions
  • Indications of alcohol withdrawal such as tremors, sweating, anxiety, and irritability

Other signs of problem drinking, or of other substance abuse may include:

  • Interpersonal problems (family members, friends and coworkers)
  • Changes in work habits (frequently late to work, leaving early)
  • Problems in work performance
  • Changes in appearance (decline in dress and appearance)
  • Significant mood and behavior changes
  • Frequent talk about drinking

These signs of distress may be the result of a number of different problems, and one should not assume that they are always substance abuse related.

Leaders should also be aware that:

  • Substance abuse/misuse problems adversely impact military readiness and the mission.
  • Substance abuse/misuse increases the risk for injuries, family violence and suicide.
  • Relationship problems will usually be the first indicator of difficulty with substance misuse. Job performance problems are more likely to occur later and may suggest a more severe problem.
  • Individuals diagnosed with alcohol problems need specialized treatment. While in treatment, Sailors will be disqualified from worldwide duty.
  • Use of illicit drugs automatically places the Sailor’s continuation of military service in jeopardy and may result in a punitive discharge, administrative actions including separation from military service, and UCMJ charges.

Roles and Responsibilities of Commanding Officers, Executive Officers, Officers in Charge and Command Master Chiefs

  • To provide an appropriate environment that encourages Sailors to seek help for alcohol problems, without fear of negative consequences, before an alcohol-related incident occurs.
  • To assign an appropriate command DAPA in writing and have them trained within 90 days per OPNAVINST 5350.4D
  • To assign a command UPC in writing per OPNAVINST 5350.4D.
  • To attend Alcohol and Drug Abuse Management Seminar (ADAMS) for Leaders per OPNAVINST 5350.4D.
  • To ensure every Sailor receives proper substance abuse prevention awareness training per OPNAVINST 5350.4D.

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Roles and Responsibilities of Department Heads, Division Officers, Chiefs

  • To provide an appropriate environment that encourages Sailors to seek help for alcohol problems, without fear of negative consequences before an alcohol-related incident occurs.
  • To attend Alcohol and Drug Abuse Management Seminar (ADAMS) for Supervisors per OPNAVINST 5350.4D.
  • To observe and document the performance and conduct of subordinates with known alcohol problems, and direct the immediate supervisors to do the same.
  • To direct blood alcohol and drug testing, as appropriate.
  • Refer all suspected substance abusers and Sailors who incur an alcohol related incident to SARP via their DAPA, per OPNAVINST 5350.4D.
  • To assess the Sailor’s suitability for continued military service after treatment.
  • To serve as an active member of the treatment team.
  • To support member’s aftercare program.
  • To ensure every Sailor receives proper substance abuse prevention awareness training per OPNAVINST 5350.4D.

Methods for Identifying Substance Abusers

Members with substance abuse/misuse problems can be identified through several channels, including:

Click each heading for more information.

Self Identification

Medical Identification

Command Referrals

Substance-Related Incident

Drug Testing

Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation Program (SARP)

  • The SARP program staff evaluate all Sailors suspected of drug and alcohol abuse in order to help the Command understand the extent of the problem and to determine the Sailor’s need for treatment and the level of care required.
  • A Command can refer a Sailor by directly contacting the local SARP office and asking for an evaluation. If the Commanding Officer elects to prefer charges for suspected drug abuse, this must be done prior to the referral (DD Form 458). However, if the command is concerned about the psychological health of the Sailor he or she should have the Sailor evaluated for suicidal or homicidal ideation through a Command Directed Evaluation (CDE) at Mental Health.
  • If a Command refers an individual for a substance abuse evaluation, the Sailor must be told the reason(s) for the evaluation, emphasizing that the evaluation is not punitive in nature.The Sailor should also be directed to report in uniform for the assessment at the appointed date and time.
  • During the evaluation, the Sailor will be interviewed and may receive psychological testing. The potential results of the evaluation are:
    • No diagnosis
    • Alcohol/substance abuse
    • Alcohol/substance dependence
    • Other mental health diagnosis
  • Members meeting the diagnostic criteria for substance abuse or dependence are put on a duty-limiting profile, which is continuously monitored to determine the appropriateness of continuing or terminating the profile.

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References Relevant to Alcohol and/or Substance Abuse Problems

  • SECNAVINST 5300.28D Military Substance Abuse Prevention and Control
  • SECNAVINST 5300.29B Alcohol Abuse, Drug Abuse and Operating Motor Vehicles
  • SECNAVINST 1910.4B Enlisted Separations
  • SECNAVINST 1920.6A Officer Separations
  • OPNAVINST 5350.4.D Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Control
  • OPNAVINST 5355.3B Submarine and Nuclear Propulsion Program Personnel Drug/Alcohol Policy

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Random Urinalysis

Identifying Drug Use

Drug testing through the Navy Drug Screening Program (NDSP) is a DoD mandated program. Each base has a Program Manager who is responsible for managing both the drug testing program and outreach programs. The overall mission of the program is to deter illicit drug use among all Naval personnel, and is vital to the mission readiness of the Navy.

Click each heading for more information.

Random Urinalysis

Member's Consent

Probable Cause

Command Directed

Self Referral

Unit Sweep

Follow-Through After Identification of Drug Use

The Navy maintains a zero tolerance for drug use and Sailors using illicit drugs are typically separated. The Commanding Officer is responsible for supporting medical assessment, stabilization and possibly treatment prior to and during the separation process. Additional support from base helping agencies may be essential during the often lengthy period of investigation and legal or administrative proceedings.



  • Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders; DSM-IV-TR. (2000). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association.
  • Harold, K., & Benjamin S. (1995). Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry VI eds. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.

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