Army zeroes in on drug use

The army is concerned safety is being compromised by soft-drug consumption

The Swiss army is using the start of the summer recruitment on Monday to warn conscripts of its policy of zero tolerance towards drugs.

This content was published on July 15, 2002 - 11:48

Under tougher measures to fight drug consumption, recruits caught using drugs will face sanctions ranging from disciplinary measures to criminal proceedings.

Police sniffer dogs are already being used to check barracks for drugs when soldiers are absent.

The new policy follows revelations of numerous cases of drug use by conscripts in the spring recruitment. Six trainee officers were thrown out of the army after admitting cocaine use.

More shock waves were created after a survey found that around 30 per cent of recruits were regular users of soft drugs including cannabis.

The defence ministry is determined that the summer recruitment - when the bulk of young conscripts undergo basic training - should not be plagued by drug problems. It has held a series of round tables with drug specialists to discuss what can be done.

Rigorous enforcement

Twenty thousand Swiss are beginning basic training this week at army schools across the country. The defence ministry said controls would be tightened at all 43 training schools, as well as at military barracks.

"The Swiss army's policy towards drugs must be rigorously pursued," the head of land forces, Jacques Dousse, said. He said it was unacceptable that "clean" soldiers - the two thirds who don't use drugs - should be put at risk by the one third who did.

Although the problem of drug consumption in the armed forces is not a new one, the incidence of drug use has increased in recent years. In 1978 just 6.6 per cent of recruits were said to be cannabis users.

With society's attitude towards recreational drugs softening, the Swiss parliament is in September due to vote on a draft law to decriminalise cannabis. It is not clear how the army would be affected by the new legislation.


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