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Drugs And More Drugs! Part One

Written by Dr. Dawn V. Obrecht on Monday, 07 January 2013. Posted in Voices in Recovery, Dr. Dawn V. Obrecht, Breaking News

Sobriety And Precription Drugs

One way to destroy sobriety: Prescription medications (legal drugs) such as benzodiazepines (tranquilizers).

Feeling stressed? New year, new sobriety? Starting over after a relapse, or just wanting to change the same old, same old? We need to find a solution; what can we do to deal with stress? More importantly, what should we NOT do?

I am a doctor, so let me caution you: do not go to a doctor, or other provider who has the ability to prescribe a drug, and tell him or her that you are stressed or anxious. Repeat: Do Not Do It…unless there is a chance you have an underlying illness, other than addiction, and need evaluation and treatment for something like hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, etc.

Doctors like to fix things, especially their patients. They often believe that the treatment for stress is medication such as tranquilizers or sedative-hypnotics. These drugs are primarily benzodiazepines like Xanax, Klonopin (K-pins), Valium, Librium, etc. They are alcohol in pill form and will destroy your sobriety, as you will likely either relapse to your drug of choice or make this prescription drug your new favorite, or both! Just because a doctor prescribes it does not make it safe or okay for you. Benzos do the same thing to the brain as alcohol…your brain does not know the difference. For an alcoholic or addict, taking a pill or capsule three times a day is like asking them to take a drink three times a day. The side effects listed by manufacturers of one popular benzodiazepine, Klonopin, also known as K-pins or generic clonazepam include: fatigue, dizziness, loss of balance, loss of orientation, muscle weakness, headache, sleep disturbances, problems with thinking and memory, slurred speech, drooling, weight gain…these are considered the “less serious” side effects! “More serious” include hallucinations, no fear of danger, shallow breathing, seizures, hostility, suicidal thoughts and more. Hmmm. Sounds like the “side effects” of alcohol use! Intoxication with this or any other downer (Central Nervous System depressant), such as alcohol, street drugs or other prescription pills, is intoxication.

Then, of course, the addict wants more of these “side effects”. Feeling intoxicated is normal and the addict with a prescription for an intoxicant can easily justify using it, denying that he is getting high.

Introducing any mind-altering drug to the addict brain lights up that part that says, “more!” Craving is triggered by any one of a number of categories of drugs and the saying, “one is too many and a thousand never enough”, becomes real. We now know there is a physiological reason for the phenomenon of craving; addiction is a disease of the brain. (See last week’s article). Multiple studies point out the difference between the addict brain and that of the non-addict.

The term “neuroplasticity” refers to the ability of our nervous system, including our brain, to change. This is great news, as most human beings have things they would like to change…about the way they think, feel, react and behave. For addicts, and anyone else, when the usual response to stress and anxiety has been to reach for a chemical and we are told we don’t get to do that any more, we need alternatives. Early sobriety is tough enough, and now we have to deal with anxiety. Knowing our brains can change is encouragement to start working on those new pathways. Ideas:

    1. Treat stress and anxiety with physical exercise. Go for a walk or to the gym, or begin a new sport.
    2. Pray, meditate, work on your conscious contact with your Higher Power.
    3. Get to more meetings and seriously consider doing 90 in 90, even if you have done it previously.
    4. Work through the steps again with emphasis on anything specific you can identify that causes personal anxiety.

So stay away from prescription drugs and those who prescribe them. You will get more help from someone who has been sober for a while and learned some non-chemical ways to deal with stress.

If you or someone that you love is struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism, please call or text. We want to help you.

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About the Author

Dr. Dawn V. Obrecht

Dr. Dawn V. Obrecht

“From the Edge of the Cliff: Understanding the Two Phases of Recovery and Becoming the Person You’re Meant To Be” provides those recovering from drug and/or alcohol abuse with practical lessons on how to understand and successfully navigate the two-phases of recovery.

“Dawn V. Obrecht, M.D., was graduated from the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine and did an internship in general surgery and residency in emergency medicine. She has been the medical director of a chemical dependency unit and is a professor at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. For many years she had a busy family medicine practice. Licensed in several states, she now travels to small, rural communities, filling in for physicians who need time off.

“Having been in recovery from drug addiction for over a quarter century, Dr. Obrecht uses her experience with life-threatening illness to identify with and help others to heal and to hear God. DocDawn lives in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with her husband, Erik Landvik, where she writes and consults in addiction medicine between her travels.

She is the author of several books, including, From the Edge of the Cliff, available at and on Amazon.

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