Medication in Early Recovery
Should I Take Medication in Early Recovery?
The goal of rehab is to help us build a life where we are no longer feel the need to abuse drugs or alcohol in order to function each day. This drug-free way of living is a path to deep serenity and great mental peace, and it can mean you find the happiness you have always longed for. It is just not possible to make much progress on this path so long as we engage in substance abuse, but what if we have been told to take a certain medication by a doctor – will this get in the way of our recovery.
There is a huge difference between taking a drug that has been ‘professionally prescribed’ to treat a medical condition and using drugs to make ourselves feel better! If something has been prescribed for you by a qualified doctor, it is usually advisable to take this drug as instructed – the only exception to this might be substances that you have obtained dishonestly (see doctor shopping below). If you do feel that a certain medication is getting in the way of your recovery (e.g. it is making you too drowsy) it is recommended you speak to a doctor first before stopping it.
It is important that you let your doctor know that you have a history of substance abuse – it can also be a huge help if this professional is knowledgeable about addiction treatment. The main responsibility of a clinician is to provide you with relief from your symptoms and it is possible to do this using a substance that doesn’t become a threat to your sobriety.
Doctor Shopping and Drugs in Early Recovery
Those of us who fall into addiction can be incredibly manipulative and dishonest due to our desire to feed our habit. This can mean we exaggerate our symptoms or use other tactics to get our hands on prescribed drugs. It can also mean that we engage in ‘doctor shopping’, this is where we regularly change doctors in order to get more of a drug. If you obtained prescribed medication in this way it may be vital to your recovery that you give these substances up in order to make progress along the path. Again, it is usually advisable to come clean with a doctor about what has happened.
The Danger of Over-prescribing
It is in our best interests to seek advice from experts, but there seems little doubt that is a great deal of overprescribing going on when it comes to certain medications. For example, we often hear from clients who have been prescribed antidepressants or other drugs by overworked GPs who barely had time to listen to them. This seems to be happening more and more frequently, and if you suspect that not a lot of thought went into your prescription, it would make sense that you would want a second-opinion. Ideally, drugs such as antidepressants should be prescribed by psychiatrists rather than general practitioners.
Unfortunately, many psychiatrists have very little knowledge of addiction and, with respect are trained to ‘find’ a diagnosis and prescribe a medication when often counselling could prove more effective for the patient! Both psychiatrists and GP’s are guilty of not following up with their patients and reviewing the patient’s relationship with the medication. Apparently, training in addiction and recovery plays a limited role in GP and psychiatrist training but I have been informed that this is gradually changing.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process