Taking prescription medications in sobriety is often a controversial topic. This discussion falls into two categories; mental health medications, and pain medications. There are many opinions regarding this topic-matter, and it is important to look at the big picture, before making a decision about it, or making a judgement.
Many people enter in to recovery having already been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, (depression, bipolar, anxiety, etc). Many of these diagnoses are accurate, but some of them have been made without factoring in the person’s alcoholism or addiction. It is a good idea to get reevaluated, after you have been clean and sober for a while, (30 + days).
It is important to consider the different degrees of mental illness as well, when deciding whether or not meds are for you. For example, depression comes in a wide spectrum of intensity, ranging from sporadic spurts lasting only a few days, (which may feel more manageable), to being suicidal. A person who does not struggle with depression, could never fully understand what it is like to deal with this condition, and the same goes for any other mental illness. The decision to take mental health meds is a completely personal one, and what might work for someone else, may not work for you.
The most important factor of deciding whether or not you may need mental health meds, is to do so under the care of a trusted doctor. These types of medications should only be taken as prescribed. Unprescribed medications, do not fall under the guidelines of sobriety, and could compromise your recovery.
This brings us to pain medications, possibly the most controversial issue in the recovery world. Let me preface this by saying, under no circumstances is taking these types of medications recreationally, considered a part of being clean or sober. But what if you get injured, have a surgery, get severe dental work done, or find yourself in a situation rendering your doctor to prescribe you pain killers. Are you really expected to just tough it out?
Again, this is a personal decision. Here are a few guidelines to follow:
1. Tell your doctor ahead of time that you are an addict or alcoholic.
2. Ask if there is a non-narcotic version of this medication, that would be equally as effective.
3. Make an honest assessment of your pain level.
4. Ask a trusted friend to administer your medication to you. Pain medications alter your brain and your thinking. While taking them as prescribed by your doctor is acceptable, they can cloud your judgement once in your system.
5. Check in with your sponsor, a mentor or a trusted friend, while taking the prescription.
6. When you do not need the meds anymore, discard the remaining pills. Don’t save them for a ‘rainy day’.
by Emily M