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Top 5 ways to ruin your career with drugs

The abuse of prescription drugs can produce serious health problems, including addiction. If a wingman or battle buddy shows signs of this type of abuse, encourage them to attend ADAPT or a similar program to seek help. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Victoria H. Taylor/Released)

The abuse of prescription drugs can produce serious health problems, including addiction. If a wingman or battle buddy shows signs of this type of abuse, encourage them to attend ADAPT or a similar program to seek help. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Victoria H. Taylor/Released)

RAF ALCONBURY, England -- From the first day of basic military training, Airmen are educated and warned about the dangers of substance abuse.

Capt. Rachel Van Maasdam, 501st Combat Support Wing judge advocate, shared some of the top reasons substance abuse can quickly land Airmen into serious legal trouble.

5. Deliberate Ignorance

The Uniform Code of Military Justice defines this situation as an Airman who deliberately avoids the knowledge of a presence of a controlled substance, or its contraband nature.  

"Basically, a friend can't just hand you a pill and you pop it without ever asking what it is," Van Maasdam said. "The UCMJ doesn't allow you to stick your head in the sand and say, 'I didn't know I was using drugs.'"

4. Marijuana Use

Pot, weed, grass, 420, ganga, dope, herb and joint are only some of the names used in reference to marijuana - which, although legal in some states and countries, is still outlawed under the UCMJ.

"This marijuana use is a no kidding, you could go to jail, crime in the military," Van Maasdam said, speaking toward the maximum punishment of two years confinement and a dishonorable discharge under Article 112A of the UCMJ.

3. Misusing old, narcotic prescription medication

Prescription medication is not a generic cure-all, Van Maasdam said. Misusing prescription medication, expired or otherwise, can potentially earn an Airman five years confinement and a dishonorable discharge under Article 112A.

"Most people don't consider the issues that could arise from taking old prescription medication," Van Maasdam said. "When in doubt, check with your doctor, and take full advantage of prescription drug take back days offered by military health clinics."

2. Misuse of OTC medication to alter one's mood or function

Any misuse of over-the-counter medication to alter an Airman's mood or function is a violation of Article 92, and can be met with a maximum punishment of two years confinement and a dishonorable discharge. Whether "robo-tripping," "huffing" or even using hand-sanitizer to get high, Van Maasdam said Airmen need to understand these, and other types of medication abuse, are illegal within the military.

"If you are trying to use any medication beyond the manufacturer's purpose, you could be subject to serious disciplinary action and legal ramifications," she said.

1. Codeine use without a prescription

Van Maasdam said the number one way Airmen, especially those stationed in the United Kingdom, can ruin their career with drugs is by using products containing codeine, without a prescription. Although, codeine is legal over the counter in the UK, it is still considered a narcotic by the military, and must be used in conjunction with a doctor's orders.

"In the UK, codeine can be purchased without a prescription," Van Maasdam said. "However, doing so could result in an Airman receiving a maximum punishment of five years confinement and a dishonorable discharge."