Myth: Most U.S. troops were poor soldiers: they lacked discipline, were poorly led, were usually stoned (and older ones/lifers were usually drunk).

Fact: US troops in Vietnam performed with valor and honor. Very few were stoned or drunk although more were in the latter years.

  • Drug use in the early years of the war was lower in Vietnam than the rest of the Army.
  • The peak of drug use was in 1971, when 7,026 cases were brought for hard drug use (mostly heroin).
  • There were 281,400 troops in Vietnam, so the percent of hard drug users tried at courts martial was 2.5% of the total personnel in country.
  • Urine testing of troops departing from Vietnam in September 1972 revealed that 10% tested positive for drug use.
  • A later study (the Robins Study) found that 45% admitted to having tried drugs at least once in Vietnam, but that was based on interviews, not drug testing.
  • The study found that about 5% relapsed after their return. That brings into question the methodology used in the interviews.
  • Some researchers argue that the men in the study were dependent, not addicted.
  • Some studies found that between 15-20% of enlisted men in 1972 were "addicted" to heroin.
  • No matter what numbers you use, the majority of personnel in Vietnam did not use drugs.

Confirming Evidence

LAW AT WAR: VIETNAM 1964-1973, Chapter 7, Discipline and Criminal Law

Drug Use by U.S. Army Enlisted Men in Vietnam: A Followup On Their Return Home

What Vietnam Taught Us

How Permanent Was Vietnam Drug Addiction?

What Vietnam Taught Us About Breaking Bad Habits