Many recovering alcoholics/drug addicts underestimate the danger of mood altering medications prescribed to them by medical professionals. Often the medical professionals (doctor, dentist, urgent care or ER staff) providing care to you underestimate the danger as well. Most recovering people appreciate the need to abstain from their primary drug but do not identify with the risk of “other” drugs. It’s important you understand your disease can be activated by mood altering drugs that you have never used or abused.

To safeguard your recovery, it is important to be vigilant even around medical professionals. It will be up to you to make them completely aware of your medical history, especially your addiction to alcohol/drugs. Even after you have told your medical practitioner about your addiction, you must fully understand the risks of relapse associated with the use of analgesic pain medications (opiates), sleep aides (sedatives), anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines) and ADHD or weight control pills (amphetamines/ stimulants).

Having worked hard at your recovery you can never become complacent about prescribed medications. Always ask, “What exactly is this medication for?” Look at the side label on the bottle, does it say, “Could cause drowsiness. Do not drive or operate machinery until you know how you respond to this medication.”? If so, it may be in the dangerous category for you. If you are not sure, call a treatment program or ask a recovering physician.

My strong recommendation is that you have a professional relationship with an addictionologist, an American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) certified physician, to guide you in these matters. If you live in an area where there are no addictionologists, developing a professional relationship with a local recovering physician would be helpful.

I hope the alcoholics are still reading. (Alcoholics notoriously feel safe with prescribed drugs. Big mistake!) I have known long term sober alcoholics face catastrophic relapses using pain medications after having surgery or while using sleep medications. Additionally I have encountered quite a few alcoholics that are unable to stop using klonopin.

If a surgery, accident or injury does occur remember you need recovery experts by your side throughout the ordeal to navigate these dangerous waters without experiencing a relapse. It can be done. (Personal note to recovering opiate addicts-You aren’t allowed to get sick or hurt, remember?)

Standard procedure for all recovering people is to be educated about drugs. Try alternative therapies whenever possible. Rely on an ASAM-certified physician for help with medications. Rely on your addictionologist, sponsor and family members if high risk drugs cannot be avoided. Don’t go to the Doctor’s office alone. Never rely on yourself in this situation.

Take Care of Yourself
Stay Well,

Tammy Bell

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The Relapse Prevention Center

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