• June 1, 2015


It is twenty years since the Celtic League first raised the issue of drug and substance abuse in the British Armed Forces. Initially there was a reluctance to admit to the problem but eventually in 2008 there was a more open policy adopted and the MOD even agreed (via then Defence Minister Des Browne) to take up on a Celtic League suggestion (see quote in letter below).

However, now new information – published earlier this month in several mainstream newspapers – indicates things are, if anything, worse.

Indeed, one paper suggests that the ‘zero tolerance policy’ that former Defence Secretaries such as John Reid and Des Browne told us was in place is not now being adhered to.

We have asked current Defence Minister Michael Fallon to ‘come clean’ about the current situation and set out how he intends to address the issue henceforth.

Will he be as open to discussion as his predecessor Mr Browne was seven years ago we wonder?

“The Secretary of State for Defence
Michael Fallon MP
Ministry of Defence
Main Building

30th May 2015

Dear Minister,

Re: Drug and Substance Abuse British Armed Forces

I would be grateful if you could forward statistics on drug and substance abuse in the British Army over the past decade.

I refer you to two links to recent mainstream newspaper reports which if correct paint a very dismal picture of current and historic drug abuse in the military. One of the papers also highlights the fact that the MOD does not have in place a strategy to deal with so called ‘legal highs’ and suggests that the policy of ‘zero tolerance’ adopted some years ago is not being adhered to.



The Celtic League first raised this issue as with the Ministry of Defence 20 years ago in 1995 at that time you assured us that the MOD were “constantly reviewing its programme on (drugs abuse) education”.

We highlighted the issue again 5 years later in June 2000 after a number of dismissals from a Welsh Regiment.

Six years later the Royal United Services Institute (a body I feel sure you will agree has extremely high credibility) said in a report that the Army was losing a ‘battalion’ a year to drug abuse.


We have also highlighted in 2005 (Correspondence to John Reid) the failure of the MOD to provide support to those discharged with drug problems, possibly engendered by trauma caused during active service. Some of the comments ascribed to veterans’ groups in the Daily Record article above seem to endorse that view.

Finally we were pleased in February 2008 that the MOD finally took on board some of the concerns we had outlined when Minister Des Browne told us:

“As a result of your letter, we will investigate publishing the actual number of tests undertaken on our website in addition to the number of individuals tested.”

Was this ever actioned as it seems difficult to find an easily accessible link to this information on your web site?

We look forward to hearing from you in due course with up to date statistics and details of how the MOD intend to address this problem going forward.

Yours sincerely

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information”

Please note releases/correspondence referred to above which are before 2010 is not yet available ‘open access’ on our celticleague.net site.

However, all news release are still retained in the ‘closed’ CL Yahoo news site any news source requiring further information on the period 2000-2010 should contact me directly.

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)


The Celtic League was established in 1961 and has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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