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Officials say prescription drug abuse on Fort Benning accounted for 19 percent of criminal drug investigations in 2013. Recent changes to the Combating Prescription Drug Abuse policy are focusing on how Soldiers, civilian employees and their Families properly handle expired or unused medications.
Prescription drugs are now the second most abused drug on Fort Benning, said Kevin Clarke, chief of police with the Directorate of Emergency Services. Previously, this type of drug abuse was not well documented. Recent changes in drug testing have increased visibility and this policy is intended to help curb this dangerous abuse.
According to Army Regulation 600-85, which governs the Army Substance Abuse Program, testing conducted by the program is the primary method of detecting drug abuse.
Clarke said the most common types of prescription abuse include using a drug prescribed to a person by a doctor beyond 6 months of issue, use of another persons prescription drugs by a person that does not have a prescription, sales of prescription drugs that were legally issued to an individual on a valid prescription, theft of prescription drugs and use of a valid prescription in excess of recommended dosages.
The policy establishes control, safeguards and increased visibility for our leaders, he said.
Clarke said key components of the policy include requiring Soldiers to lock up prescription drugs in barracks rooms and vehicles, making out a police report for lost, stolen or destroyed prescription drugs, informing leaders of label warnings and informing Soldiers of ways to discard of unused prescription drugs.
Oskar Schlomer, prevention coordinator for the Army Substance Abuse Program, said Soldiers are responsible for how their prescription medications are used and stored.
According to the policy, military police will record the patient information on Fort Benning DES Form 121 and the provost marshal office will file a police report into the Centralized Operations Police Suite to keep an historical record of repeated incidents. Military police will follow the same procedure if the prescription drug was lost, stolen, or destroyed off the installation.
Soldiers who do not possess a valid prescription and test positive through urinalysis for prescription drugs more than six months after the drug is dispensed could be subject to Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The punishment is the same as if that Soldier consumed some other type of illegal drug, like cocaine or marijuana, Schlomer said.
Schlomer said Soldiers must also keep their prescriptions out of reach of minors. Parents should especially be aware of a dangerous trend among youth called Skittles parties, where people mix a variety of prescription pills together in a bowl and consume them like candy, he said.
Doctors typically use a patients height and weight to determine how strong the medication should be, Schlomer said. If a child took medication for someone who is taller and weighs more, it could be life-threatening.
In addition to keeping prescription drugs out of reach, Schlomer said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sponsors the National Drug Take-Back Day initiative twice a year in an effort to provide a safe, convenient and responsible way of disposing of unused prescription drugs. The next event will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 26 at the Fort Benning Exchange. For more information, call 706-545-4415, 706-545-7027 or visit www.dea.gov.