The U.S. military services will expand their drug testing programs to include commonly abused prescription drugs beginning on May 1, the Armed Forces News Service reports. The Department of Defense testing program will now include hydrocodone and benzodiazepines, according to the Army Times. The article notes the military already tests for codeine and morphine.
Service members who have prescriptions for hydrocodone or benzodiazepines will not be subject to disciplinary action for using them as prescribed.
“Abuse of prescription drugs is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States, and unfortunately, this trend is reflected in the military services,” said Major Gen. Thomas W. Travis, Deputy Air Force Surgeon General. “While pain medications are highly effective in alleviating suffering from injuries, they are dangerous and potentially addictive when used outside medical supervision.” He encouraged military service members who need help discontinuing the use of these drugs to seek care at a military treatment facility.
According to the Armed Forces News Service, military data suggests an increase in prescription drug misuse. The Department of Defense Health Behaviors Survey showed that self-reported misuse of pain medications for non-medical purposes by all military service members increased from 2 percent in 2002, to 7 percent in 2005 and 17 percent in 2008.
Following a 2010 report on health promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention in the Army that cited prescription drug abuse as a growing issue, the Army announced last year it was making changes to reduce the misuse of prescription pain medications. The Army has limited the duration of a prescription so that it is not considered valid after six months without a doctor’s reevaluation and renewal.