Use and abuse of prescribed opioids, central nervous system depressants, and stimulants among U.S. active duty military personnel in FY 2010

Mil Med. 2014 Oct;179(10):1141-8. doi: 10.7205/MILMED-D-14-00002.


Objectives: This study establishes rates of use/abuse of Schedule II-IV prescription medications in U.S. active duty military personnel, and characterizes correlates of such use/abuse.

Methods: All active duty personnel serving for 12 months during fiscal year 2010 were included. Data were obtained from medical and pharmacy claims and drug screening results. Logistic regression models were used to examine predictors of drug use, along with bivariate analyses to compare abuse of prescribed and illegal drugs.

Results: Nearly one-third of active duty service members received at least one prescription for opioids, central nervous system depressants, or stimulants, with 26.4% having received at least one prescription for opioids. About 0.7%, 1.4%, and 0.6% of the total force received >90-day prescriptions for opioids, central nervous system depressants, or stimulants, respectively. Battlefield injury, receipt of psychotropic medications, and substance abuse adverse events were predictive of >90-day supply of opioids. About 0.7% of the total force had documented known drug abuse for prescribed drugs compared to 0.4% for illegal drug abuse.

Conclusions: We recommend systematic monitoring of prescriptions for controlled substances which may carry serious consequences, evaluation of the impact of controlled substances on military readiness, and examination of the rationale for prescribing controlled drugs.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / therapeutic use*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Insurance Claim Reporting / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Narcotics / therapeutic use*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Substance Abuse Detection / statistics & numerical data
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Warfare
  • Wounds and Injuries / drug therapy
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Narcotics
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Psychotropic Drugs