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Is It Safe to Use Prescription Medications in Sobriety? 

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For many in recovery, a doctor’s prescription pad is something to be regarded with some skepticism. Some patients began their addiction inadvertently when they filled a doctor’s prescription for painkillers or benzodiazepines, and after working so hard to become drug-free, the idea of taking these drugs again for any reason can cause a certain amount of trepidation.

Why? Because the use of addictive medications – even if taken exactly as prescribed – can trigger cravings for getting high, some people in recovery are concerned about a potential relapse if they take certain prescription medications even if there is legitimate medical need.

While some might counsel you to avoid prescription medications at all costs, even to the potential detriment of your medical health, there is a way to manage the situation with balance: giving the same priority to your physical health and comfort as you do to your ongoing recovery. Here are some steps you can take.

Talk to Your Doctor

If your doctor is not already aware of your past issues with substance abuse, tell him or her. In some cases, there may be a non-addictive alternative that will work just as well. In others, he may start with a smaller dose and recommend that you augment with more holistic options. In our culture, the easy thing is to write a prescription for a pill in order to address symptoms, but there are often multiple choices in treatment that may or may not include medication. If you ask specifically for your doctor to consider these choices first, you may be able to bypass the issue entirely or limit the potential for relapse by starting with the smallest possible dose of potentially addictive drugs.

If your doctor is uninterested in considering other alternatives or lacks the education to guide you knowledgably, consider seeking a second opinion with another medical professional who emphasizes holistic treatment.

Pay Attention to How You’re Feeling

Let’s say that you are about to undergo surgery and expecting a prescription for painkillers during your recovery. Most people can take the pills on an as-needed basis and stop taking them as the pain begins to fade, but some people with a drug abuse history may find this more difficult. Even a minimal dose can trigger the desire to get high.

However, not taking medication when it is needed can be a potentially hazardous situation as well. Experiencing great pain with no relief can trigger the desire to go out and drink or use other drugs. There is no single right solution to the problem, and each person must do what he feels is right and pay attention to how he feels as the situation progresses.

Speak Up and Reach Out


Waiting to speak up and ask for help when the urge to relapse strikes may be waiting too long. If you know that you are going to undergo surgery or facing the possibility of a benzo prescription for the treatment of a co-occurring disorder like anxiety, talk about it in advance. Let your therapist, your sponsor, or a close and supportive friend or family member know what you are facing and ask them to check in with you periodically. If you begin to feel shaky in your recovery after starting a prescription, they may be able to help you identify the situation and get back on track before you find yourself in relapse mode.

Trying to help your loved one get back on track after relapse or avoid relapse in recovery? Contact us today to learn more about our supportive treatment services and how we can help.