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Don’t put yourself at risk for drug misuse, talk to your doctor

Airmen required to take opioid medication should familiarize themselves with proper usage procedures and understand the associated risks to their health and readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Kristin High)

Airmen required to take opioid medication should familiarize themselves with proper usage procedures and understand the associated risks to their health and readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Kristin High)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- When Airmen have a prescription for an opioid pain medication, they need to closely follow their doctor’s orders, for the good of their health and their careers.

An active prescription for an opioid medication can excuse Airmen for a positive opioid result on a Drug Demand Reduction test. However, if you use an opioid beyond the expected length of the prescription without talking to your doctor, a positive test may lead to serious consequences.

Like every prescription, Airmen should take opioid painkillers as prescribed by their provider. This means taking the prescribed dosage, for the stated amount of time, and for the proper indications.

“If you take the medication as prescribed, you should be ok on your drug demand reduction test,” said Col. Melissa Howard, pharmacy consultant to the Air Force Surgeon General. “When in doubt, contact your healthcare provider to validate your course of action on a medication they prescribed.”

Accidental or intentional drug misuse of any kind can have negative consequences on your health and military career.

Taking medication after a prescription expires may not justify a positive test. The Air Force considers this drug misuse or abuse. Possible punishments include loss of pay, reduction in rank, and other measures under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Maj. Jin Kim, pharmacy policy fellow, Air Force Medical Operations Agency, has counsel for Airmen who continue to experience pain after a prescription expires.

“Check with your provider if pain recurs,” said Kim. “Do not resume using leftover prescription painkillers without consulting your doctor.”

Holding on to and using excess or expired medication can impede an Airman’s ability to complete their mission, and can be dangerously habit forming.

Proper drug disposal decreases the chance of accidental and intentional drug misuse and reduces the amount of medication that gets into the environment. Contact your local military pharmacy to see what takeback options are available in your community.

Additional resources:

  • Call 911 if you suspect someone is overdosing or is in distress
  • CDC Poison Control Centers: (800) 222-1222

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