The Misuse of Prescription Drugs is Unsafe and Illegal!

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the federal health agency reports that in 2008, 52 million persons in the United States age 12 or older had used prescription drugs non-medically at least once, and 6.2 million had used them in the past month.

"With over 6,000 members (60%) of our community 12 years of age or older, we must be ever attentive to the signs of prescription misuse," said Lt Col (Dr.) Jeremy S. Bragdon, 35th Medical Group Chief of Medical Staff.

When a patient takes a medication for a purpose other than the reason it was prescribed or when a person takes a drug not prescribed to him or her, it is a misuse of the medication. Misuse can also include taking a dose that was not recommended by the healthcare professional. It is important to understand that all drugs have the potential for producing side effects. When a patient misuses a medication without the provider's knowledge, it can lead to unintended consequences such as hospitalization or even death.

Pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives are the top drug classes likely to be misused for non-medical purposes. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) specifically prohibits the "wrongful" use of prescription drugs. Any use of prescription drugs other than those specifically authorized by the prescribing physician is wrongful and can result in a trial by court-martial.

According to Capt Malcolm Langlois, Assistant Staff Judge Advocate, "the violation of Article 112a of the UCMJ carries the potential penalties of a Dishonorable Discharge or Dismissal, one to five years of confinement, and a reduction to E-1."

The Drug Demand Reduction Program now tests for a wide variety of prescription drugs in addition to illegal substances. Federal law also prohibits the transfer of controlled substances to any person other than the person or patient for whom these medications were prescribed.

Besides the legal ramifications of misusing controlled substances, medications can potentially cause side effects which should be monitored and managed by a healthcare professional. Pain relievers such as morphine or oxycodone can cause breathing difficulties by suppressing respiration and reduce mental alertness. Tranquilizers (i.e. diazepam), stimulants (i.e. amphetamines and methylphenidate), and sedatives (i.e. barbiturates) can potentially cause hallucinations. It is advised that patients remove drugs from their medication cabinets after the prescribed period (maximum of one year) and properly dispose of them. Expired medications lose their potency and therapeutic effects over time. Certain medications degrade into toxic byproducts which could potentially be fatal to children and pets.

Misawa Air Base 35th MDG stands with you in a partnership for health. Patients can protect themselves, their children, and pets by disposing of unwanted medications. All patient information should be removed from the medication vial, tablets should be crushed or the contents of capsules removed, dissolve the medication in a small vial of water and add pieces of shredded paper, allow mixture to dry, place in a plastic bag, and dispose. More information is available at nodrugsdownthedrain.org and search.earth911.com. Patients may also call the Pharmacy at 226-6607 for further questions.