Report: More Must be Done to Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse in Military

The Department of Defense needs to do more to prevent prescription drug abuse among members of the military, according to a new government report. Some branches of the military are doing a better job than others in medication management policies, the report concluded.

The report, by the department’s Inspector General’s office, examined policies related to troops wounded in combat who are taking multiple medications, according to USA Today. The Army aggressively guards against “doctor shopping” and using the same prescription to obtain more medication than has been prescribed, the report notes. The Army closely monitors a soldier’s prescriptions when he or she is receiving four drugs, including one controlled substance.

The Navy’s medication management policies vary by location; in some locales, close monitoring occurs only when a sailor or Marine receives five controlled substances. “Medication management policies, especially for the high-risk patient population of wounded warriors, need to be standardized,” the report states.

The Pentagon should be more aggressive in seeking approval of the federal government in letting pharmacies take back unused medication from troops, the report recommends. “Take-back” programs are currently conducted only twice a year at military installations. “Wounded warriors did not have a reliable, safe, accessible and accountable method to dispose of medications that were no longer needed for treatment,” the report said. “As a result, wounded warriors may be at risk for overdose or misuse of unneeded medications that could result in unnecessary hospitalization and death.”

The Department of Defense responded that corrective steps are being taken, the article notes.

In 2010, almost 1,000 troops were hospitalized for drug overdoses, according to the report. In 2011, a survey of troops found one-fourth use pain medications.

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