• The most popular drug used in the Vietnam War was marijuana. U.S. troops began smoking the substance as early as 1963, the advisory period, until the very end of the war. Since there was no Vietnamese drug enforcement agency standing in the way of the manufacture, importation, possession, use, and distribution of the drug, it was widely used by American soldiers, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and the Vietcong (VC).
  • In the Marines, the punishments for possessing grass were much more sever than in the Army, where dealers and hard drug users were the main target of prosecution. With nearly half of the cases tried by the Marine Corps relating to marijuana and with percentages of weed-use as high as 70% in some Army companies, the U.S. military began to crackdown on the issue by putting pressure on the Vietnamese government in 1968. Villagers were now forbidden to cultivate marijuana, South Vietnamese soldiers launched search and destroy missions on weed crops, and propaganda against the drug was everywhere.
  • Even with opposition against marijuana, soldiers still found ways to smoke it. Many of them enjoyed the smell and taste of weed smoke over the gun smoke from their M-16s. Surprisingly, combat troops often avoided smoking when on patrol so that they could stay clear headed. An Army major even appraised cannabis by saying, "I think alcohol is a much more dangerous drug than marijuana," and another said,""If it would get them to give up the hard stuff, I would buy all the marijuana and hashish in the Delta as a present."


  • The war the U.S. military was waging against weed would bring to life a battle on another front against heroin. Heroin could infiltrate any base, undetected, and in many ways was just as dangerous as the NVA or the VC. In 1970 there were 1,146 arrests for the use of morphine and heroin. In 1971, there were 7,026. By 1973, it was reported that up to 34% of American troops fighting in Vietnam had used heroin.
  • Heroin came into Vietnam from the “Golden Triangle”, regions in Laos, Burma, and Thailand, that produced 80% to 99% pure heroin after it was refined. Morphine was given to U.S. military medics in syrettes. People who were addicted to morphine usually switched over to heroin because it produced a more powerful high, it was easy to get, and some thought that it would cure their addiction to morphine when, in fact, heroin was more addictive. Since the heroin in Vietnam was so strong it was smoked, snorted, and taken orally, instead of injected, to avoid overdoses. A combination of weed or tobacco and heroin in a joint was called an O.J. (opium joint).
  • One-third of those who did heroin started using it in the first month of their arrival to Vietnam. About 90% of users started to use it in their first four months. This is because old users would supply it to the new soldiers who wanted to fit in and also escape the hell that is war. If you were caught with heroin in your system you could face up to 10 years imprisonment, dishonorable discharge, and forfeiture of all pay and allowances. One back in the U.S. many heroin addicts from the military received basically no help for recovery.


  • Alcohol consumption in the US military was considered a necessity for troops as a provision of morale. It became one of the common rations for sailors and soldiers. "Alcohol has been used in the military to reward hard work, to ease interpersonal tensions, and to promote unit cohesion..."(Ingraham 1984)
  • Alcohol has been available at low prices at military outlits and even in clubs on base. There was the common stereotype that hardcore soldiers were hardcore drinkers, and eventually the Department of Defense passed a policy in 1967.

Source: Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol, and Addictive Behavior, ©2001 Gale Cengage.

Soldier in vietnam getting searched for heroin.

The average soldier would drink five beers daily during vietnam war

Soldier in vietnam drinking beer, hard liquor and smoking a cigarette all while being on painkillers
Vietnam soldiers smoking pot through an unloaded gun barrel.

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