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NEWS | March 7, 2013

Prescription drug abuse: Don't swallow your career

By Airman 1st Class Victoria H. Taylor 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

You're having trouble sleeping during the work week and a friend is concerned about your performance.

"I have something that might help," he says.

He hands you a small pill to take that night and you take it before bed; instantly falling sound asleep.

You awake the next morning, feeling refreshed and well-rested. The feeling is exactly what you needed, so you take a pill the next night. After keeping this routine for several nights, you realize you could get used to the feeling. Unknowingly, this is the start of an abuse problem, and possibly the end of your career.

Prescription drug abuse is the use of a medication in a way not intended by the prescribing doctor. PDA or problematic use includes everything from taking a friend's prescription painkiller for your backache, to snorting or injecting ground-up pills to get high.

This type of drug abuse may grow to be constant and compulsive in America, despite the harmful consequences.

Although records show that prescription drug abuse positives on Joint Base Langley-Eustis have gone down tremendously over the years, in September 2012, the Institute of Medicine released a report to the members of Congress with findings stating the number of active-duty Service members who misused prescription drugs rose from 2 percent in 2002 to 11 percent in 2008. These findings show prescription drug abuse is still an on-going issue among Service members.

"Anyone can develop a tolerance and dependence on alcohol," said Capt. Anita Yates, head of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program at Langley. "The same is true for prescription medications."

In a study held in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009, 52 million citizens ages 12 and up had used prescription medications non-medically, and seven million did so routinely.

"Using controlled prescription drugs that have not been prescribed to you, or using drugs prescribed to you that have expired could be a punishable offense," said Capt. Jon Calandruccio, 633rd Air Base Wing Judge Advocate Office attorney.

According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, any person who wrongfully uses, possesses, manufactures, distributes or imports illegal drugs into an installation, vessel, vehicle, or aircraft used by or under control of the armed forces shall be punished as a court-martial.

"Using prescription drugs over the prescribed amount, or for any other purpose rather than what they have been prescribed for is also punishable by UCMJ action. It is comparable to using street drugs," said Calandruccio.

This may ultimately lead to a military discharge, and, consequently, trouble with obtaining civilian employment later.

"Ignoring the problem will make it worse," said Yates. "Instead, encourage people to talk with a physician or to contact ADAPT for assistance."

There are alternative options when encountering sleepless nights, pain or anxiety. Do not self medicate - contact the available resources listed below:

Behavioral Health Optimization Program: (757) 225-9585
ADAPT: (757) 764-6840
Chaplain's Office: (757) 764-7847
Langley Urgent Care Center: (757) 764-6800
Fort Eustis McDonald Army Health Center: (757) 878-7500
Fort Eustis Behavioral Health: (757) 314-7558