For recovering drug addicts or alcoholics, the need to take any kind of medication can pose a significant threat to their sobriety. This problem arises as early as the detox stage, where drugs may be required to stabilize a person and minimize the effects of acute withdrawal syndrome. After detox, most recovering addicts attend a more comprehensive type of drug treatment such as an inpatient treatment center or a day/night treatment program. Any need for medication can be carefully managed by the staff of these treatment facilities. However, once a rehab program has been completed and the patient is returned to their community, it can be extremely difficult to take certain medications in a responsible manner. Further examination of this problem is crucial to understand how recovering addicts can overcome it.
For drug addicts and alcoholics, it’s not as simple as abstaining from all types of drugs for the rest of their life. The fact of the matter is that at some point it’s likely that a person in recovery will need to take medications that could be habit forming. This could occur as a result of surgery, injury or chronic pain management that requires the use of (primarily opiate-based) drugs that cause euphoria such as Vicodin, Morphine or Fentanyl. This risk could also present itself for recovering addicts that have psychological or emotional issues that require treatment with drugs like Valium, Xanax or Klonopin.
The risk here is that people in recovery may take these medications, begin to abuse them and then become addicted. This is a very real possibility and one that even the best managed medication program can’t always prevent. The fact of the matter is that if a drug is taken consistently over time, tolerance, dependence and physical addiction are likely. The question remains then – how can recovering drug addicts and alcoholics take necessary narcotic medications?
The answer lies in a close relationship between a patient and their doctor. Many physicians are experienced in providing pain management for people in recovery. In general there are two methods used to control pain while limiting the risk of relapse and addiction:
- Treatment with non-psychotropic pain medications such as Tramdol
- A detailed monitoring and reevaluation process that constantly addresses the potential for abuse and addiction
According to a paper in the National Center for Biotechnology Information;
“The goal of chronic pain treatment in addicted patients is the same as individuals without addictive disorders—to maximize functional level while providing pain relief. However, to minimize abuse potential, it is important to have 1 physician provide all pain medication prescriptions as well as reduce the opioid dose to a minimum effective dose, be aware of tolerance potential, wean periodically to reassess pain control, and use nonpsychotropic pain medications when possible.” (1)
However, many patients are able to manage their problem with the help of a trusted person such as a spouse or parent that can be given control of the drugs and only administer them according to the patient’s doctor’s strict instructions. In other cases a patient can be required to check in with medical professionals and produce their prescriptions for verification.
To learn more about recovering addicts and medications, please see part 2 of this article. But if you’re abusing your prescribed medications and need help right now, call the number at the top of your screen. We’re here 24 hours per day to help you get back on the path to lifelong recovery from addiction. Remember – the longer you go without getting help, the worse the problem will become. Take back control by calling us now.
1) Christopher D. Prater, M.D., Robert G. Zylstra, Ed.D., L.C.S.W., and Karl E. Miller, M.D. Successful Pain Management for the Recovering Addicted Patient 2002 National Center for Biotechnology