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House Committee Report Signals Concern About Prescription Drugs in the Military

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The U.S. House Committee on Appropriations says in a report that it is concerned about the growing use of prescription pain medications in the military, which is leading to dependency among service members. Prescriptions of pain management drugs are handled inconsistently at military medical treatment facilities, according to the report.

The report on the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill for 2012 notes that in battle zones, prescription data is not always transmitted to the Department of Defense Pharmacy Data Transaction Service. The committee said that within two months of passage of the budget, it wants the Assistant Secretary of Defense to provide information on “the required steps and potential obstacles toward electronic transmission of prescription drug data,” including a plan of action for establishing a more consistent electronic transmission process, The Daily reports.

The committee also asked for information on what efforts the Department of Defense is taking to track prescription drugs that service members obtain in the private sector and the status of cooperation with state controlled substance monitoring programs.

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 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.

A report by the Army’s Suicide Prevention Task Force, entitled Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, Suicide Prevention, notes that while pharmaceutical drugs account for only 18 percent of illicit drug use cases in the Army, they were involved in almost one-third of the active duty suicides the previous year. The report also states that of the 188 accidental or undetermined deaths caused by drugs or alcohol from 2006-2009, 139 (72 percent) were caused by prescription drugs. Recently reported data indicates that 73 percent of the accidental or undetermined deaths in 2010 were related to prescription medications.

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