Balancing Your Sobriety with the Need to Take Medication

For someone who has addiction, it’s very common that he or she also has a mental illness. In fact about 80% of those who have an addiction also have a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other disorders. Of course, anyone who is treating their psychological disorder is seeing a psychiatrist and likely taking medication. However, there may be a concern with having to take medication and your vow to stay clean and sober. Another example is a recovering addict who gets into a car accident and needs to take pain medicine in order to heal. The risk of temptation and taking more opiate medication than what was prescribed might be present. This article will explore the challenges of having to take medication while attempting to stay sober and abstain from substances.

According to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and their 12-step philosophy, taking medication when in pain, or suffering from a psychological disorder interferes with one’s commitment to sobriety. When you’re in recovery from addiction, AA claims that a person needs to stay away from substances altogether.

However, other experts will say why not allow a person to effectively treat their condition and continue on with their recovery. In fact, this FIX article points out that mental illness are biologically based, such as any other physical illness. AA would allow a person to take medication for cancer, for example, so why can’t a person also take anti-anxiety medication?

This debate continues to exist in the field of addiction and recovery. However, more importantly, a person needs to decide for themselves whether taking a particular medication is going to interfere with their sobriety. For instance, certain medications come with side effects which might affect one’s ability to stay sober. If someone were prone to depression and a side effect is drowsiness, then someone might choose not to take that particular medication if it means feeling tired or frequently with low levels of energy.

Furthermore, if someone were healing from an addiction to prescription pain pills, and if he or she were in a car accident, then there might need to be an alternative to taking that kind of medication. In other words, despite what experts are saying, it might make more sense for you to explore for yourself what might put you at risk for relapse and what medications will be safe to take.

Part of this exploration should include a discussion with your psychiatrist or doctor. Gather information about a certain medication before you take it. Find out its side effects, what it is intended to do, and whether it has any addictive qualities. One drug that is commonly prescribed for anxiety is benzodiazepines. However, they are incredibly addictive and hard to get off. Many psychiatrists are no longer prescribing them. You might also agree that taking this medication for anxiety will not work since it may put you at risk for relapse.

Also, keep in mind that that doctors don’t have prescribing medications down to a science. They rely on your input in order to know whether to make an adjustment. They rely on what you share about your experiences with them in order to decide whether to increase, decrease, or maintain your current dose. As you are exploring your options and if you decide to take a medication, stay in constant communication with your doctor so that he or she knows the right amount and combination of medication that will be the most efficient and bring the least interruption to your life.


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