Buyer Beware: Steroids, Hemp Seed
Products Off-Limits to Air Force Members
By Capt. Sean McKenna
Air Force Space Command Public Affairs
04/17/01 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFPN) Exercising
and following good eating habits can lead to a long and healthy
life, but taking health products with hemp seeds or using steroids
can lead to a short Air Force career.
There is a booming market of commercial weight and diet programs,
high carbohydrate or protein diets, multilevel marketing plans and
health club advertisements that cater to the health fitness market.
Air Force members are among the many working to stay in shape in
this fast-paced world.
There are some nutritional supplements on the commercial market
that are made with hemp byproducts such as hemp seeds and hemp seed
oil. Although the use, importation or manufacturing of marijuana
is illegal in the United States, hemp byproducts are not themselves
illegal. To attract customers, manufacturers of hemp seed oil products,
such as Spectrum Essentials, Nutiva, Hempola and Manitoba Harvest,
market hemp byproducts as good sources of fatty acids and proteins,
both important to good health. However, taking these products could
spell the end of the line for airmen.
Al Lanham, Air Force Drug Testing Laboratory
lab technician compares the identifiers on a urine bottle with
the chain-of-custody in the specimen accessioning laboratory.
(Photo by Senior Airman Oshawn J. Jefferson)
Even though hemp seeds do not themselves contain tetrahydrocannabinol,
or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, the seeds may
become contaminated with THC through contact with the stems and
leaves during processing. In fact, studies have shown that products
made with hemp seed oil may contain varying levels of THC, and may
therefore be detectable in the urinalysis samples provided as part
of the Air Force Drug Testing Program.
Laboratory testing cannot distinguish between hemp seed oil products
and marijuana. Therefore, to ensure military readiness, the ingestion
of hemp seed oil or products made with hemp seed oil is now prohibited
by Air Force Instruction 44-121, "Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention
and Treatment (ADAPT) Program." Failure to comply with this
prohibition is a violation of Article 92 of the Uniform Code of
While most airmen have no desire to jeopardize their careers by
ingesting illegal products, some may do so by ingesting products
that contain hemp. The bad news is that ignorance is no excuse.
When a urinalysis test detects the presence of prohibited substances
in an airman's system, in whatever form, UCMJ action is likely to
There are also many synthetic agents currently available as dietary
supplements and marketed for body builders. Currently, the Air Force
has not issued a general ban on these dietary supplement substances.
However, there is an aeromedical policy requiring "special
duty" personnel such as those on the Personal Reliability Program
or on flying status to report the use of dietary supplements. Any
person considering using dietary supplements should consult the
health and wellness center and their physician.
The use of steroids is a different story. Air Force members should
be aware that steroids are a Schedule III controlled substance.
They are illegal to use unless prescribed by a licensed physician.
Wrongful use of steroids is punishable under Article 112a of the
Not only will the wrongful use of steroids get you in legal trouble,
the adverse medical effects of anabolic steroids are very serious.
Effects include behavioral changes, shrinking of the testicles,
reduced sperm production, development of adipose breast tissue in
males and baldness. Long-term effects include increased risk of
stroke or heart attack and hardening of the arteries as well as
direct damage to the heart or liver.
The Department of Defense mandates that 75 percent of the total
military population be tested for drug use each year. That means
that if a base has 10,000 members, at least 7,500 random urinalysis
tests must be conducted. If an airman ingests hemp seed oil or uses
anabolic steroids, it is possible that his urine will test positive
for THC or steroids, and he would become the subject of a criminal
investigation and possible disciplinary action.
The Air Force does not tolerate the illegal or improper use of
drugs by Air Force personnel. It is a serious breach of discipline,
is not compatible with service in the Air Force, automatically places
the member's continued service in jeopardy, and can lead to criminal
prosecution resulting in a punitive discharge or administrative
actions, including separation or discharge under other than honorable
"The Air Force recruits and retains great people who consider
illegal drug use unwise and unhealthy," said Maj. Gen. William
Moorman, Air Force judge advocate general. "But we're a huge
organization and we can't expect that all members will be so steadfast
in their attitudes regarding drugs. That's why we have a urinalysis
So, how can someone prevent this from happening? People should
remember the consumer slogan "buyer beware," especially
if they regularly use products from health or natural food stores,
because some contain hemp byproducts. Read the label and look for
the active ingredients of each product. If the product label lists
any form of hemp seed oil or hemp byproducts, then don't buy it
or use it.
The good news is that nutritional products at the fitness center
and base exchange are safe because they do not stock any products
containing the prohibited substances. The best course of action
is to always consult with the health and wellness center and a physician
before beginning any diet or exercise program. These professionals
can help design a healthy fitness regimen and advise on the safe
use of dietary and nutritional supplements. So, buyer beware. Be
smart, be aware, read the label and get professional advice.
(Courtesy of AFSPC News Service)
Gen. William Moorman