by Senior Airman Sam Fogleman
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
7/13/2015 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- With
the shifting legal statuses of various controlled substances across the
nation, it may be confusing for Airmen to keep things straight when it
comes to prescription medications, legalized recreational substances and
outlawed drugs. Particularly with the advent of statewide marijuana
legalization here in Washington state and nearby Oregon, Fairchild
Airmen are required to maintain the utmost vigilance in upholding
military substance use standards.
Layers of complexity are added when a prescription written by an Air
Force physician contains a drug that meets Drug Enforcement Agency
scheduling. Usage of such substances, even when legally prescribed,
outside of mandated administration often merits the same legal response
as a substance completely banned in all circumstances.
"Wrongful use amounts to taking a substance outside of prescribed limits
without legal justification," said Capt. Catherine Santiago, 92nd Air
Refueling Wing Judge Advocate chief of military justice. "In such
instances, because one will have been shown to have abused drugs, most
likely the individual will be recommended for administrative
Administrative separation parameters are detailed in Air Force Instruction 36-3208, Administrative Separation of Airmen, and drug use in particular is detailed in section 5.54 of that AFI.
Article 112a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice details the
specifications of court-martial eligibility for violations of the
Controlled Substances Act, which a plethora of prescription medications
meet for scheduling. One could be eligible for up to a dishonorable
discharge, in addition to a variety of other penalties.
For wrongful use or possession of Schedule I-, II- and III-listed
substances, up to five years confinement is a possibility. For
distribution, one can encounter a confinement timeframe of 15 years.
Oxycodone, for example, a widely prescribed painkiller, is listed under
Schedule II, so a prescription and proper use during the prescription
timeframe is crucial.
"Proper use will be in the medical record," said Lt. Col. Michelle
Anton, 92nd Medical Group chief of medical staff. "If the medical
record shows that a member is being treated for a medical condition and
was given a prescription for that condition, the record documents
appropriate/intended use of the medication."
Anton added, "That bottle of Hydrocodone you have in your medicine
cabinet after a back strain two years ago should NOT be taken for a knee
sprain now. It should absolutely NOT be shared with a friend for their
knee sprain, either."
For information on how to properly dispose of unused medications, please
consult the Food and Drug Administration's website at
For questions about the military drug policy, contact the Fairchild legal office at (509) 247-2838.