LONDON

Increasing numbers of British soldiers are being discharged after testing positive for drug use, local media reported on Monday.

The UK Ministry of Defense released data that showed 660 soldiers and reservists were discharged last year for testing positive in compulsory drugs tests, according to the Guardian.

This was an increase on the 630 discharges for the same reason in 2018, and 580 in 2017. So far this year, there have been 270 discharges, but testing numbers are down due to the pandemic.

Cocaine was the most popular drug, as it leaves the body within a few days. Cannabis and ecstasy were the next most popular drugs, with tests also picking up ketamine and steroids.

Drug use is on the increase among young British adults in general, partly explaining the phenomenon in the military.

Former Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson introduced a zero-tolerance approach to drug use in 2018, saying it was the only way to keep standards high.

Ben Wallace, the current defence secretary, walked back the line to an extent, saying some people were “young and irresponsible,” and that senior officers should be able to decide if those who test positive for drug use should be discharged.

“The army does not tolerate drug abuse within its ranks as it is incompatible with military service and operational effectiveness. Army personnel caught taking drugs can expect to be discharged,” the Guardian quoted an army spokesman as saying.

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