The U.S. Navy has announced a new campaign aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse among sailors, according to the Navy Times.
The campaign, “Prescription for Discharge,” will educate sailors about correctly taking their medication, reporting their prescriptions and disposing of unneeded extra medicines.
In the first seven months of this fiscal year, 524 sailors have tested positive for illegal prescription drug use. The Navy is on track to surpass last year’s total, the article notes.
About one-fourth of sailors are prescribed some type of medication, LaNorfeia Parker, Deputy Director of the Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Office, told the newspaper. The most commonly prescribed medications are amphetamines, hydrocodone, hydromorphones, oxycodone and oxymorphones. In 2012, the Navy added benzodiazepines (such as such as Ambien, Xanax and Valium) and hydrocodones (such as Vicodin) to standard urine drug tests.
Focus groups have found many sailors think it’s acceptable to take medication prescribed to a family member, and do not think prescription drugs can be “illicit” drugs.
A government report released earlier this year concluded the Department of Defense needs to do more to prevent prescription drug abuse among members of the military. 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. 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.