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Marine Administrative Message 579/10 states that “there has been a surge in Marines and sailors using both legal and illegal substances, which affects efficiency, discipline and good order of Marine units.” The recently updated message provides information on the dangers of abusing legal and illegal substances, compounds, controlled substances and mixtures used to get intoxicated. Outlined within the message are the legal consequences of such action and provides leaders with guidance to combat substance abuse.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Brendan King

Stop abuse of substances, support Marines

3 Jun 2016 | Lance Cpl. Brendan King Defense Media Activity

Do the names “Spice” (synthetic cannabinoids), “Diviners Sage” (Salvia Divinorum and Salvinorin A), “Powder Mushrooms” or “5-MEO-DMT” (5-Methoxy-Dimethyltryptamine), or “Blue Lotus” sound familiar? Those are just some of the street names out there for drugs that are abused and used with the intent to “get high.” Just like the civilian population, the Marine Corps also has a problem combating substance abuse. 

Marine Administrative Message 579/10 states that “there has been a surge in Marines and sailors using both legal and illegal substances, which affects efficiency, discipline and good order of Marine units.” 

The recently updated message provides information on the dangers of abusing legal and illegal substances, compounds, controlled substances and mixtures used to get intoxicated. Outlined within the message are the legal consequences of such action and provides leaders with guidance to combat substance abuse.

“Zero-tolerance.” 

Marines hear it at every liberty brief and annual training session. The Department of Defense has a very strict, zero-tolerance policy regarding substance abuse. According to the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC), the policy means that “any sailor or Marine determined to be using, possessing, trafficking, manufacturing or distributing drugs or drug paraphernalia is required to be disciplined and/or administratively separated from the military.”

There are also policies in place for mentorship and leadership of all ranks to utilize in order to combat the abuse of substances. The Marine Corps has developed and provided these guidelines in Marine Corps Order 5300.17 to limit abuse, misuse, and determine how and when to provide treatment for Marines who have been afflicted by dependence.

The order states: “Alcohol abuse and the distribution, possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia on a military installation, vessel, vehicle, or aircraft used by or under the control of the armed forces by any person subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice is prohibited.” 

A controlled substance is defined in the dictionary as a “drug or chemical whose manufacture, possession, or use is regulated by a government, such as illicitly used drugs or prescription medications that are designated a ‘Controlled Drug.’” Controlled substances, such as pharmaceuticals or any intoxicating substance, can be extremely dangerous if not used as directed.

Because pharmaceuticals are a controlled substance, a pharmacist may write a valid prescription, but the patient is responsible for understanding its intended purpose, side effects, and when to dispose of expired medication. A medical prescription for a controlled substance must be dated and signed on the date when issued by a provider. The prescription must include the patient’s full name and address, and the practitioner’s full name, address, and the Drug Enforcement Administration registration number.

According to the NMCPHC, if misuse or abuse occurs, a Medical Officer (MO) who is a physician qualified to interpret drug test results, will review all prescription drug positives to determine if the prescription drug test results may be related to medical care. The physician reviews and makes a “no wrongful use” or “wrongful use” determination for the prescription drug positives that are not cleared as a legitimate prescription by the drug laboratory.
Any time a sailor or Marine has a positive urinalysis, for a controlled substance for which they do not have a current prescription in their medical record, and no other valid reason can explain the positive urinalysis, they are subject to a violation of the UCMJ.

A “wrongful use” determination may lead to disciplinary action because it is contrary to the effective performance of the Marine Corps mission. 

Whether it is for lack of discipline, addiction, mental illness, physical pain, anxiety, the stresses of military culture or depression; the use of drugs is an ongoing conflict within the DOD and its individual branches.

To fight this battle, there have been programs put in place to help Marines and sailors gain knowledge, educate others, limit abuse and misuse and if the need arises, to find treatment for individuals battling substance abuse.

Every military installation has its own Substance Abuse Counselling Center (SACC), whose job is to provide timely and effective substance use prevention, education, and counseling services to active duty service members and their families. 

Base-wide programs are in place for all Marines, sailors, whether or not a substance abuse problem is identified and recommended by commands. In many cases, it is up to the service member to take action and attend a substance abuse class to get back to a healthy lifestyle.

For more information on substance abuse prevention, visit building 598 on Marine Corps Air Station Yuma or call 929-269-3569 or 928-269-5634.
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