April 6, 2012
By Lance Cpl. Alyssa N. Hoffacker, Marine Corps Bases Japan
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Department of Defense has strengthened its fight against drug use with expanded drug urinalysis testing slated to take effect May 1.
According to Marine Administrative Message 154/12, Notification of Expanded Drug Urinalysis Testing within the Marine Corps, urinalysis will not only screen for illegal drug use, but will now also check for frequently misused prescription drugs.
“(The Marine message) notifies Marines of the expanded prescription drug urinalysis testing for commonly-abused prescription drugs, including hydrocodone and benzodiazepines,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua L. Brewer, substance abuse control officer for 7th Communication Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF.
Although these powerful prescription drugs can alleviate suffering from injuries and anxiety, they are potentially highly addictive. When used incorrectly, they put the Marine and unit at risk, according to the message.
“Leaders should be mindful of the Marines who are on prescription drugs to ensure it is annotated in their medical records, and they are not abusing the drug or becoming dependent,” said Brewer. “When conducting a urinalysis on any Marine, the importance of the annotation of prescription drugs is paramount.”
Prescription drugs are considered inappropriately used when they are not used for their intended purpose, used beyond their prescribed dates, used in excess of the prescribed dosing regimens, or when a service member uses another individual’s prescribed medications, according to a message referenced in the MARADMIN. The message from the office of the Secretary of Defense is titled Initiation of Expanded Prescription Drug Urinalysis Testing.
“Marines who are misusing prescriptions are encouraged to voluntarily seek medical treatment,” said David Ralston, the drug demand reduction coordinator for Marine Corps Base Camp Butler.
All Marines who refer themselves to qualified representatives shall be screened at a medical facility, per Marine Corps Order 5300.17, also referenced in the MARADMIN.
According to the order, Marines professionally diagnosed as “not drug dependent” will face disciplinary action, while those diagnosed as “drug dependent” will be offered medical treatment and will be exempt from disciplinary action.
However, the order also makes clear that regardless of the diagnosis, the Marine will be processed for administrative separation.
According to the Secretary of Defense’s message, those who self-refer for abuse of hydrocodone and benzodiazepine prior to May 1 will not be subjected to punitive action.
“The bottom line is that the abuse of prescription medication is harmful to the individual user and everyone around them,” said Ralston. “The best way to prevent the negative consequences to your career and life is to use prescription medications only as your physician directs.”
Marines seeking substance abuse counseling can obtain assistance through their chain-of-command, medical personnel or self-refer to their respective substance abuse counseling center.
“The ultimate goal of the program is to hold all Marines accountable for their actions and to help them get back on the right track,” said Brewer.
For useful tools and advice on drug abuse, talk to your unit’s substance abuse control officer or visit www.usmc-mccs.org/leadersguide/SubstanceUse/Drug/index.htm.