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Defense Department Expands Drug Testing Program

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The Defense Department announced this week it is expanding its drug testing program to include hydrocodone and benzodiazepines. The program already tests for codeine and morphine. The new screenings were announced 90 days before they would take effect, giving service members who are addicted to prescription drugs time to seek medical help.

Hydrocodone and benzodiazepines are being added to the list of testable substances because they are among the most abused prescription drugs on the market, according to Joe Angello, the Defense Department’s Director of Operational Readiness and Safety. “You’re not at your peak mental acuity when you’re using drugs,” he said in a news release. “The military has some of the finest men and women this nation has to offer; we cannot have people in the business of arms with drug impairments.”

Service members who have prescriptions for these drugs will not be subject to disciplinary action if they use them within the dosage and time prescribed, Stars and Stripes reports.

Following a 2010 report on health promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention in the Army that cites prescription drug abuse as a growing issue, the Army announced it is making changes to reduce the misuse of prescription pain medications. The changes include limiting the duration of a prescription so that it is not considered valid after six months without a doctor’s reevaluation and renewal.

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