Be careful with medication you take: Your military career depends on it
By Staff Sgt. Armando Vasquez, 108th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 11, 2012
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST -- If you have a backache and you remember that last year your doctor prescribed you some pain killers for another ailment, you probably won't think twice about taking those pills to alleviate your ailing back.
Furthermore, many people will take over-the-counter medication with no thought of coming up hot on a urinalysis. According to doctors, some antibiotics, pain-killers, cold medicines and antihistamines can give a false-positive result for amphetamines and cocaine.
But if you are in the military, these results can have a negative impact on your career.
Tech. Sgt. Rasha Burton, a medical technician with the 108th Medical Squadron, said that the Air Force currently tests Airmen for usage of amphetamine, cocaine, opiates, opioids (Oxycodone, Oxymorphone), phencyclidine and THC, which is more commonly known as marijuana.
Burton also said, "drug testing is conducted monthly at five percent or quarterly at 13 percent for National Guard and can be done any time for the AGR."
In addition, last year the Air Force made a change to the drug testing program by targeting Airmen most likely to use drugs. The "Smart Testing" program began last year on Oct. 1, and tests more frequently individuals within the ranks of airman basic through senior airman, as well as first and second lieutenants.
So how does this affect you?
Well, simple put, if you are within these ranks you are at a higher probability of coming up on the urinalysis report. And if you unknowingly took an over-the-counter medication or an old prescribed medication that is not recorded on your military medical records, you run the risk of standing before your commander to explain the positive urinalysis results.
"When a traditional Guard member tests positive for a drug to which they don't have a valid prescription the commander must initiate administrative discharge pursuant to AFI 36-3209," said Maj. Hector Ruiz, 108th Wing JAG officer. "If the member is an NCO or an officer, or if the recommender characterization for the discharge is under "Other than Honorable" conditions then he/she is entitled to an administrative discharge board."
Ruiz further clarified the regulation that if a Guard member is on Title 10 status, the member is subject to UCMJ and Court Martial process.
So how can you protect yourself?
"A member should never take anyone else's prescriptions under any circumstance!" said Burton. "If the member is in that much pain they need to consult their health care provider."
And once you consult with your doctor and are prescribed medication "the first thing they should do is make a copy and give it to the medical squadron," said Burton. "They should also document that when filling out their WebHA."
Burton also said, "while there are no illegal OTC drugs, it is the members responsibility to read what they are ingesting. The urinalysis tests for the metabolized substance and isn't looking for cocaine in the powder form, it actually looks for the chemical make-up which is Benzoylecgonine."
Furthermore, Burton suggests that service members stay away from anything that contains hemp, the low strains of the plant Cannabis sativa. This plant, which is very similar looking to marijuana, has been used to produce paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, construction, health food and fuel. This plant contains low strains of THC.
"You may not get a positive but I would not risk my military career over a possibility," said Burton.