Expansion of drug testing program targets commonly abused prescription medications Published Sept. 1, 2012 By Lt. Col. John Weisenfels 188th Medical Group FORT SMITH, Ark. -- Every day in this country people see their doctors or dentists and have procedures done. Sometimes, in the course of that treatment, they may be prescribed pain medication to make them comfortable following their procedure and to help them get back on their feet. This is a perfectly good example of the proper use of prescription medicines. But what happens when, a few years later, that individual suffers an injury in a fall, or simply strains a back muscle lifting something heavy? That pain they have can hurt pretty bad, and suddenly they remember that old prescription that maybe they did not finish. Good to go, right? Absolutely not. This example represents an illegal use of prescription medication not authorized by a physician. Illegal prescription use has become a huge problem in this country, especially with the abuse of Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and other drugs such as Valium, Ativan and Lorazepam. These drugs, and many just like them, are prescribed by a provider for a specific purpose and, in most cases, a specific time. Use of these prescriptions outside the stated requirement, purpose or time period set by the provider, constitutes an illegal use of that medication. Also, use of a family member's prescription medication is illegal. It does not matter whether the medication is a narcotic, a controlled substance, or just a general prescription medication. It is illegal to use prescription medications of any kind unless it was prescribed to you. How does this affect you, the military member? The Department of Defense recently expanded the drug testing program to include testing for many prescription medications. Illegal use of these medications can seriously affect your career in the military, to include discharge. In the Air National Guard, there is no room for the misuse of prescription drugs or the illegal drugs we all know. If you have a legitimate prescription to use these medications, there is no problem. But there will be consequences if you do not have a legitimate prescription. How can you avoid this dangerous situation? First, any time you see your provider, and especially if you receive a prescription for medication, go to the 188th Medical Group and update your medical records. This is extremely important. The 188th Medical Group is tasked with keeping your medical records up to date and ensuring the wing commander has a medically fit force, ready to deploy and fight at any time. Second, follow the instructions of your prescription carefully. Once you have completed the course of medication prescribed by your provider, get rid of any medication left over. You can do this by turning in the leftover medication to an amnesty box at your local police department. You can also return them to your pharmacy and they can dispose of them legally and properly. Do not flush medication into the sewer system. This could be dangerous to your town's groundwater system. Lastly, don't use the prescription after its expiration date. If no expiration date was listed, do not use a prescription six months after it was prescribed. If you ever have any questions concerning your healthcare, feel free to visit with the 188th Medical Group. It will provide any assistance it can to help you maintain your medical readiness as a member of the military. Call the 188th Medical Group at 479-573-5207 and it will help you with your questions. Maj. Jenny Johnson, 188th Fighter Wing Judge Advocate, contributed to this report.