Are You Allowed To Take A Prescription Medication When You’re in Recovery?
This is a question we are often asked, so it seemed wise to deliver an article with some answers. First, you may be wondering how this question comes up in the first place. The answer is complicated. It’s not about what you’re “allowed” to do though. It’s really about intentions, necessity, and balancing risk.
First things first. It is important to understand that in recovery, intentions matter. Suppose someone accidentally grabs the wrong drink at a party and sips some alcohol. Would you consider that a relapse? Did the person break a rule? Of course not. Why though? Because they had no intention of picking up a drink or getting drunk.
If there is an absolute medical necessity to take a certain medication and no practical alternative, listen to your doctor — just be certain they know your substance use disorder history and your concerns.
Why Would Anyone Be Asking Themselves If They Can Take Controlled Substances When They’re Sober?
Maybe you or someone you love is right on the edge of accepting help for addiction. But, there’s one sticking point. They are prescribed a controlled substance for a medical condition and they are afraid to give it up.
Another scenario we’ve seen is a person who has been in recovery for some time and then encounters a situation where a doctor is recommending a controlled substance, perhaps even saying it is medically necessary.
Deciding whether or not to take a medication that has the potential to threaten your recovery is not a decision to take lightly. But no one else should get to decide this for you. Ultimately it’s between you, your doctor, and your Higher Power, if you’ve got one.
No one has the right to insist that you suffer in pain or discomfort for a principle, but you must be relentlessly honest with yourself and others in making this decision. These can be tough questions to answer, but keep reading — we’re going to help you make sense of it.
Why a sober person might be prescribed a controlled substance:
- Suboxone or methadone in MAT
- Serious chronic pain
- Surgery or serious injury
- Migraine headaches
- Benzodiazepines for panic attacks or anxiety
- Stimulant medications for ADHD
How To Decide Whether Or Not To Take A Medication
The Bad News: There isn’t one simple answer to this question. It’s complicated.
The Good News: We’re about to tell you how to figure out the right answer for YOU.
Remember that earlier we said this is really about intentions, necessity, and balancing risk. What we mean by that is that you can make a smart decision about whether or not to take a prescribed medication when you’re in recovery by asking yourself some questions answering them honestly and talking to others you trust.
Here are some questions to ask yourself about intentions, necessity, and risk:
Why are you considering taking this medication? In your heart of hearts, answer as honestly as you can. Is it because you’re in intolerable pain and nothing else will relieve it? Will it prolong your life or protect you from seizures? Is there no suitable non-addictive alternative?
What would happen if you did not take this controlled medication? Would your life be at risk? Would you be in pain that would seriously compromise your quality of life? Would it prevent you from being able to do your job or meet other obligations, like caring for your family?
How confident are you that taking this medication will not put you at risk for relapse? Are you certain that you will not abuse it? Are there any risks to your health or safety if you choose not to take it? Is this a temporary situation, like an injury, or are you considering taking this medication regularly?
Talk To Your Doctor and People You Trust
The bottom line is that you should always follow your doctor’s guidance. Make sure that any doctor who is prescribing you medication is aware of your substance use disorder history (all of it) and the fact that you are in recovery. Share your concerns with your doctor. The truth is there are effective, non-narcotic alternatives for nearly everything these days. From serious pain to anxiety and ADHD — controlled substances are very rarely your only choice.
If your doctor insists the controlled substance is the only effective option and you are still uncomfortable with the idea, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. The truth is that doctors don’t spend nearly enough time learning about addiction in medical school. Doctors have wildly varying levels of practical knowledge about addiction depending on their age, where they went to school, and their personal and professional experience. Another doctor may be aware of a non-narcotic medication that your doctor wasn’t.
Questions About Prescription Medications and Recovery?
If you have questions about prescription medications and recovery — North Jersey Recovery Center has answers! Give us a call at (877) 790-5873
If you believe you or someone you care about may have a substance use disorder, NJRC can help. Our treatment center works with most major health insurance plans and we have helped thousands of people find their sobriety.
NJRC offers a full range of programs designed to fit busy lifestyles, with day and evening Intensive Outpatient Treatment available. All it takes is a phone call to begin the change.