HomeNewsDisplay

News Search

Opioid and Medication misuse: A growing problem

Prescription pain pills are seen dumped out on a table at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind. Airmen who take prescription pills that are not their own or are taken after the time allotted could find themselves facing severe discipline. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner)

Prescription pain pills are dumped out on a table. Airmen who take prescription pills that are not their own or are taken after the time allotted could find themselves facing severe discipline. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --

An estimated 2.4 million Americans used prescription drugs non-medically for the first time in the past year. That equates to more than 6,550 new cases of improper use each day.

Air Force members contribute to this statistic, too.

Prescription medication use falls into three main categories: correct use, misuse and abuse. Most Airmen fall into the first category and use their prescribed medication for the intended purpose and duration.

"In general, people start out taking their medications correctly," said Lt. Col. V. Christina Fairley, 86th Medical Support Squadron diagnostic and therapeutic flight commander. "Along the way, they become lost."

Misuse is when a person uses medication for any reason other than the prescribed use. This can include using medication outside of the timeframe designated by a medical professional or using medication not prescribed to you.

A common scenario that service members run into is when they are prescribed a pain medication for a legitimate reason, but end up with leftover medication. Rather than disposing of the medication at an approved facility, they keep it in their medicine cabinet.

A few months later, they develop a pain caused by work, PT or a minor injury. Rather than going back to the doctor for a prescription specifically for the new injury, they self-medicate with their prior prescription. If these drugs are found in their system during a drug test, they can be held accountable administratively.

"Some types of medications are highly addictive," said Fairley. "People start thinking 'One works great, so two will work better'. Soon, they are taking medication incorrectly, increasing dosage, quantity and duration. Once the ball starts rolling down hill, it is hard to stop."

According to Fairley, some of the most commonly abused drugs in the Air Force are those from the opioid family: Vicodin and Oxycontin. There is also an increase in the use of stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall.

Taking these medications when prescribed by a licensed professional can decrease pain after a surgery or help with recovery from an injury. However, if they are misused or abused, the individual misusing them may be subject to non-judicial punishment. Punishments can include the loss of pay or rank, base restriction, and a reprimand.

"Wrongful use of prescription drugs can end your career," said Capt. Jazmine Russell, 86th Airlift Wing military justice chief. "It may qualify as drug abuse for discharge purposes. If a case is considered a drug abuse case, the Air Force instruction requires a mandatory discharge, with a few exceptions."

According to the Federal Drug Administration, if your prescription has expired and you still have medication, do not throw it away or flush it down the drain. Base pharmacies have a disposal drop box for year round deposit of unwanted medications. These pharmacies also participate in National Drug Take Back Day, where people are encouraged to bring their expired medication to dispose of correctly.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Saturday, October 28, 2017.  Take back locations can be found at: https://takebackday.dea.gov/#collection-locator

 

"Education is paramount," Fairley said. "Individuals need to understand the potential harm that comes from misusing a medication."

Air Force Medicine

Engage

Facebook Twitter
“The transition to the Defense Health Agency will better prepare our medical professionals for the future of the jo… https://t.co/RJHgAUAjs8
@USAF_ACC @TeamTyndall We're here for you, Team Tyndall! #Wingmen
RT @USAF_ACC: .@TeamTyndall, your fellow wingmen are here to help! Airmen from the 96th Medical Group at Moody AFB are helping out at #Tynd
#TBT: Air Force Surgeon General Alonzo A. Tower oversees an instructor teaching the Physicians’ Assistant course at… https://t.co/GuJ39elrJd
Pharmacists are an integral part of patient care. These medication experts help maximize positive health outcomes a… https://t.co/E6jLeJR8yl
Please congratulate Maj. Regan F. Lyon and Col. Kerry P. Latham for being the 2018 MHS Female Physician Leadership… https://t.co/UxVzKleSxh
CLEAR! Airmen with the 439th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron perform a function check of a defibrillator during a… https://t.co/wenoaTroGj
RT @60MDG_DGMC: DGMC 30th Anniversary! Did you know that David Grant Medical Center has been delivering trusted care at its current locatio…
Medical assistants and technicians perform a wide range of administrative and clinical roles and are vital members… https://t.co/JbR5hpFetl
If left untreated, trauma-related disorders, caused by traumatic events, can deepen and prolong distress. Look out… https://t.co/I6d6Xqn4rG
RT @TRICARE: Due to #HurricaneMichael, emergency refill procedures have been extended through October 31st, for the impacted areas of Alaba…
Meet Preston! The first Courthouse Facility Dog in the @DeptofDefense and @usairforce. After training for more than… https://t.co/mZzybXe1w2
RT @AirMobilityCmd: Aeromedical evacuation crews from @jointbasemdl, @MacDill_AFB, and @439Westover boarded a #TTail to Hawaii to train tog…
AETC Command Surgeon, Col. (Dr.) Gianna R. Zeh, discusses her thoughts on ongoing improvements, how medical Airmen… https://t.co/R13v4ladvp
Keep your family’s personal and health information safe as you surf the Web. Follow these cybersecurity steps from… https://t.co/hKCOSICyTm
RT @TRICARE: Looking for a pharmacy near Tyndall AFB (@TeamTyndall)? For a full list of network pharmacies, visit: https://t.co/Ct5B0PCIWV…
Did you know the MHS Nurse Advice Line has expanded to include additional health care support services? A registere… https://t.co/6MfGWegP6i
2Lt Aimee Clonts, a clinical nurse with at JBER is this week’s #TrustedCare Hero for proactively becoming a subject… https://t.co/B3Nz4hLI9i
RT @TRICARE: Have you been affected by #hurrincaneMicael? TRICARE has many resources available to you when a disaster strikes. For more inf…
RT @usairforce: A message from @SecAFOfficial, @GenDaveGoldfein & CMSAF Wright following their visit @TeamTyndall. https://t.co/WbF8BTVj3D…