Coinciding with a national prescription drug take back day, US military officials announced that soldiers will soon have routine testing for more unauthorized prescription drugs. According to KDNews.com, starting tomorrow, troops will be screened for hydrocodone and benzodiazepine. The military currently tests for codeine and morphine, in addition to illegal drugs.
The Pentagon announced that it would begin more rigorous drug testing, giving troops misusing hydrocodone and benzodiazepine a 90 day warning. This is an unprecedented move in more than 40 years of military drug testing. Troops using the medications as prescribed will not face a penalty. Hydrocodone is often prescribed to treat pain, but is also one of the most misused prescription drugs in the US.
Dr. Jennifer Potter, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, said, "Rates (of prescription drug abuse) in the military seem to mirror the rates in the civilian sector-but the rates in the civilian sector are high." Military prescription drug abuse has increased in recent years, according to the US Army Public Health Command. More than 110,000 active-duty soldiers took antidepressants, sedatives, and other prescribed drugs last year. Abuse rates among the military have doubled in recent years, but illegal drug use and tobacco use declined among the military personnel.
About 17% of troops reported misusing prescription drugs in 2008. Pain relievers were the most popular. Joe Angello, director of operational readiness and security for the Defense Department said, "You're not at your peak mental acuity when you're using drugs. We cannot have people in the business of arms with drug impairments."
Fear of misuse must be balanced against the benefits of prescribing these drugs to veterans, particularly the injured, who would benefit form painkillers. Painkillers can even help these injured men and women to continue with a normal life. Dr. Jennifer Potter said, "It's important that they don't feel stigmatized or that it's somehow a bad thing for them to be taking it." The key is that they are taking it as prescribed, and we so often hear the stories of how opiate addictions begin by taking them as prescribed.
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- Item Tag: drug testing in the military, prescription drugs, prescription medications and the military