FORT SILL, Okla-- Over the past four years there has been an increasing number of Soldiers using their prescription medications in an illegal manner. One of the greatest contributing factors of this illegal use is because Soldiers simply do not understand the regulation, but try telling that to a commander during an Article 15 hearing for a positive urinalysis. Lack of knowledge, quite honestly, is not a good defense.

Soldiers are continuing to use prescribed medication after the expiration date, which is in violation of regulations. Many Soldiers believe if a prescription states for them to use "as needed," that they are not responsible for the illegal use.

Medical Command Regulation 40-51, dated May 13, 2011, Medical Review Officers and Review of Positive Urinalysis Drug Testing Results, states, "The use of any legally obtained prescription drug will not be considered illegitimate unless that use is beyond a clearly defined expiration date." It also states, "Prescriptions will expire six months after the last date dispensed (issued)." Many Soldiers still believe the expiration date of prescribed medication is one year, though that is not the case. Keeping medication in your possession, past its intended use for which the medication was intended, allows the potential for breaking that law.

The second contributing factor of illegal prescription use arises when Soldiers illegally share medication with their friends. Prescription medication is only to be used by the person whose name the prescription is for. Using a friend's prescription that you think is an over-the-counter pain reliever could actually be a controlled substance that is banned for illegal use under United States Code Title 21, Section 812. This code lists the type of controlled substances considered to be illegal.

If a Soldier tests positive for a prescribed medication, a request is submitted to a medical review officer (MRO) who reviews medical evidence: medical prescriptions documented in the electronic health record system, hard copy medical records or via a statement from the Soldier's medical doctor or dentist. There are only two outcomes after the MRO has reviewed the case, those being "legitimate use" which has a medical authorization, and "no legitimate use" where the Soldier does not have a medical authorization.

The illegal use of any drug while serving in the military has severe penalties. The wrongful use, possession, etc., of controlled substances is in violation of Article 112a, Uniformed Code of Military Justice, and may bring a maximum penalty of a dishonorable discharge and confinement from two to 10 years depending on the amount and type of illegal drug. An administrative separation is mandatory if a Soldier tests positive twice for illicit drug use.

Educate your Soldiers to keep them from getting in hot water, which in turn will allow leaders to focus on priority tasks that are more positive in nature. If you have any further questions, The Office of the Inspector General is at 1643 Randolph Road next to Nye Library. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays except for regularly scheduled training and federal holidays. IG contact numbers are 442-3109/3224 or e-mail to If you call during non-duty hours, you may leave a voicemail and the IG staff will return your call the next duty day.