Prescription medication is a hot topic in recovery. Many recovering addicts stay away from all types of medication, using natural alternatives such as herbal remedies when they become sick or have some other condition.
Others will take some medications, depending on the situation, as long as they strictly follow the doctor's orders. Whether taking medication should be considered a relapse is a complicated issue, with the right answer depending on your own specific situation.
Why an Addict would Need Prescription Medication
Many people who have suffered from an addiction also have a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Many of the treatments for these conditions involve prescription medications, including anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants.
Drug and alcohol addiction can also cause harm to the body, with a person now needing to take medication for heart problems, liver problems, or other issues that have developed. Additionally, if a recovery addict ever needs surgery or is involved in an accident, then he or she might need some form of anesthesia or pain medication. Even a bad cold or bout of the flu could be cause for certain medications.
Some treatment professionals feel that it is important for recovering addicts to take certain medications. This is especially true for a mental health condition, as the treatment for the mental health condition can help to reduce the risk of relapse, especially if a person turned to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate the condition. However, others feel that it is essential for addicts to not touch any medication.
The Dangers of Prescription Medication
Some prescription medications have addicting qualities and even share some of the effects on the brain and body as the drugs and alcohol to which a person may be addicted. These prescription, and sometimes over the counter, medication should always be avoided.
This includes the most commonly abused prescription drugs including stimulants, sedatives, and opioid pain medication. Any medication with alcohol, which includes some cough medicines, should likewise be avoided.
Some drugs prescribed to help with recovery from addiction, such as methadone and buprenorphine have led to addiction and abuse of the medication, replacing one addiction with another.
Those who do not believe that taking medication as prescribed is relapsing believe that as long as a medicine is not abused, it does not constitute as a relapse. As long as the drugs are taken in the dosage prescribed, and no other substances like alcohol are consumed concurrently, then there is no problem.
However, the other side of the argument believes that taking these drugs, even when needed, should be avoided because the drugs will affect addicts, so they would no longer be considered clean and sober. This group often believes in 100 percent abstinence of any mood altering substance.
Therefore, even if it was medically necessary and a person does not become addicted and does not use the drug again, it is still considered a relapse in the same way as taking just one drink or one hit of a drug would be.
What you Should do
If you are concerned about whether you should take prescription medication, you should discuss it with your doctor. Be sure to be very open with any prescribing doctor about your addiction history, especially to which substance you had the addiction, and your fears about addiction.
You should definitely avoid any substance that was similar to your substance of choice. You should also have another person monitor your medication to ensure that you do not abuse the medication, or become addicted.
Additionally, you should remain or begin counseling or therapy to ensure that the behavioral issues that led to your initial addiction do not cause you to become addicted to a new substance, or relapse.