It is an unfortunate fact that many people are addicted to prescription medication of all kinds. The pharmaceutical industry is responsible for a large number of overdoses and deaths. For example, prescriptions opioids like Vicodin and Oxycontin are extremely addictive and can be a huge issue in and of themselves. They are in the same class of drugs as street drugs like heroin and fentanyl, so many people often “graduate” from prescription opioids to street drugs because they can be cheaper and easier to obtain. There are many drugs out there that doctors happily write prescriptions for that can wreck a person’s life. Opioids, Benzos, sleeping medications… all of these have major potential dangers, can derail a person’s life, and even kill. So, what does one do when they are in recovery but need to be on medication for something like an operation or mood disorder. Luckily, there are options out there that make taking medicine in recovery safe. However, you need to always be careful and aware of what you are putting into your body.
Medicine in Recovery is Ok, But You Need to Be Careful
In recovery, relapse is an unfortunate prominent reality. It is estimated that between 50 and 90% of people will relapse after drug or alcohol treatment. Relapse can certainly be caused by prescription medication, whether it is something the person had a problem with before or a new substance. Trading one addiction out for another in not uncommon in recovery. For example, a person who was an alcoholic can become addicted to Xanax, or a person who was addicted to cocaine may replace it with Adderall.
As a general rule, you should never accept a medication that is in the same class of drugs you used to be addicted to. If you were a heroin user, taking opioid painkillers is just asking for a relapse. It is dangerous and the equivalent of playing with fire, no matter how cautious you think you will be.
Being open with your doctors is a must. Before any kind of procedure, it is necessary to talk to your doctors about the medication you will be receiving and to tell them you do not want anything that is habit forming. If you don’t feel comfortable telling them about your past history of addiction, it is ok to simply tell them you don’t want anything habit forming, and any good doctor will oblige and discuss options with you.
Unfortunately, many doctors are partnered with certain pharmaceutical companies for financial gain, and they may try to push potentially dangerous medications on you. You need to put your foot down and if you have the choice, switch doctors if they refuse to change their opinion. Your health is your most valuable asset, and if a doctor disregards your wish to stay away from habit forming medicine, they may not be the best fit for you.
Always, always do your own research. If you are prescribed a medication, look it up and make sure you know the risks that are associated with it. Your doctor may forget about what you told them, or not realize what they are doing, and put you in harm’s way. Educating yourself about medicine in recovery is the best way to keep yourself safe with an added layer of protection. And believe us, it happens. Recently, a woman in early recovery for heroin addiction went to the doctor with severe back pain. She specified that she didn’t want opioids, so the doctor gave her a muscle relaxer instead. It was such a strong muscle relaxer that she became hooked and relapsed a week later. Had she looked up the drug, she would have known the potential risk and been able to better protect herself.
Always know that options exist so that you can take medicine in recovery. For example, if you suffer from anxiety, Vistaril is a great option to help with panic attacks. It is actually an allergy medicine that helps to calm the central nervous system and is completely non-habit forming. Many rehabs are using it right now as a way to help with anxiety. The same goes with pain medication. Options exist. The number one best thing you can do if you are in recovery is knowing what you are taking so that you are aware and the risk is minimal.