Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Ask the Lawyer: Be careful to use prescription drugs as prescribed

Oct. 30, 2011 - 12:21PM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 30, 2011 - 12:21PM  |  
  • Filed Under

About the author

Mathew B. Tully is an Iraq War veteran and founding partner of the law firm Tully Rinckey PLLC. Email questions to askthelawyer@militarytimes.com. The information in this column is not intended as legal advice.

Q. I was prescribed a painkiller for a knee injury. I found the meds helped me sleep better so I used them to knock me out on restless nights. I just took a urinalysis and I am wondering, what will happen if it comes back positive?

A. As long as a service member has a valid prescription, a urinalysis that tests positive because of an opioid painkiller, such as morphine, OxyContin or hydrocodone, should not automatically result in a charge of wrongful use of a controlled substance in violation of Article 112a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

In such instances, a medical review officer will go over the case to determine whether the use was appropriate or inappropriate.

The problem of prescription drug abuse has reached alarming levels in the armed forces. It used to be that a doctor's prescription slip would have been enough to clear a service member of illicit drug-use charges, but even this practice has changed.

In February, for example, the Army's Office of the Surgeon General announced that soldiers can be found to be illegitimately using prescription drugs if they are taken six months past their dispense date.

The other services also have moved to counter prescription drug abuse. In April, the Marine Corps issued an order that defined "drug abuse" as including the wrongful use of prescription medication "to the extent that it has an adverse effect on performance, conduct, discipline or mission effectiveness, and/or the user's health, behavior, family, or the Marine Corps, or leads to unacceptable misconduct."

Military courts have found wrongful use of prescribed drugs to include mixing them with alcohol and ingesting them in ways not prescribed — for example, crushing pills and snorting the powder.

An order issued by the Air Force in January similarly prohibits prescription medications "when used in a manner contrary to their intended medical purposes or in excess of the prescribed dosage."

It is important that prescription drugs taken by service members be recorded in their military health records. That's why, for example, sailors must report to their chain of command all prescription drugs obtained from nonmilitary treatment facilities.

Service members who violate any of these orders can be charged under Article 92 for failure to obey an order.

Service members accused of illicitly using prescription drugs should immediately contact a military law attorney. Depending on the circumstances, an attorney could show how the medicine was taken to address health problems for which it was prescribed, disproving a medical review officer's determination.

Other possible defenses are innocent ingestion or lack of awareness that the drug was not used as prescribed.

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In Pay & Benefits

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan
Rates

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.


This Week's Air Force Times

This Week's Air Force Times

Readiness at risk
James' mission: Prioritize wisely to maintain capable, agile force

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

Classifieds
MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.
Woman who cried rape
(3 replies)
   Last Post: TJMAC77SP
        May 3, 2014 1:32 PM
   Last Post: garhkal
        May 1, 2014 5:03 PM
Cliven Bundy
(45 replies)
   Last Post: Chief_KO
        Apr 26, 2014 9:49 AM
Handbooks

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook