Addiction to a prescription drug can sneak up on you if you take more than prescribed. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between a developing problem and the need for increased doses to manage medical problems. A prescription drug is misused when it's taken for non-medical reasons, when more of the drug is used than prescribed and when it's mixed with other drugs, including alcohol. It's important to discuss medication dosage and risks with your health care provider.
How can you be sure you're using prescription drugs safely?
Addiction to a prescription drug is not likely when you need the medication and use it as prescribed. Follow the Food and Drug Administration's medication guide that comes with your filled prescriptions. To be as safe as possible:
- Report any history of drug abuse, pregnancy and other health conditions to your provider before taking the drug.
- Take the prescribed dosage without increasing or decreasing amounts and frequency.
- Continue taking the medication on your own unless your doctor recommends you stop.
- Consume timed-release pills without crushing or breaking them.
- Avoid driving or operating machinery (if the drug has sedating effects).
- Avoid alcohol and other prescription and over-the-counter drugs (if the drug is subject to interactions).
- Store your medication safely to ensure others cannot use it.
What is the military doing to address the issue of prescription drug abuse?
- The Department of Defense expanded drug-testing requirements for service members to include some of the most abused prescription drugs.
- The military has set a six-month limit for controlled prescriptions to remain valid.
- Service members who have prescriptions for these drugs are not subject to disciplinary action when taken within prescribed dosage and time limits.
- Military health care providers and pharmacies have become more alert to signs of abuse by service members and military family members.
Military doctors look for patients asking for increased doses of medication or more frequent refills, false or altered prescription forms and multiple prescriptions for the same drug from different doctors.
How can you get help for prescription drug abuse?
- Communicate your concerns to your doctor.
- Ask friends and family if they've noticed changes in your behavior.
- Ask loved ones to help you monitor taking the medication only when needed.
- Visit the TRICARE website to find treatment services for addiction.
- Consider support groups with others facing similar conditions.
- Explore alternative therapies, such as art, exercise, meditation and counseling.
- Use the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website for more information on substance abuse screening and programs.
- Call a consultant at Military OneSource (800-342-9647) for referrals and support.
Isolation and avoidance can create the perfect environment for drug abuse to grow. Including family, friends and your doctor into your treatment creates an atmosphere of honesty that can protect you from heading down a dangerous path. If you feel you need additional help, there are many resources available for service members and their families, and Military OneSource is a great place to start.
If you're an active-duty service member, a military family member or a veteran, and you think you may have a problem with prescription drugs, there is help for you.