A lot of people in recovery have this thought about taking medications. Let’s look at the situation logically.  But before we do… Let me put in my disclaimer!   

I am not a physician.  I do not prescribe medications, recommend doses, or tell people what to take or not take.  ONLY A DOCTOR can do that!  These are just my general thoughts about taking medication while in recovery. Please do not MISTAKE any information that you read here for direct advice about what you or your loved one should do!  

My intention here is to help alleviate common fears that people have about jeopardizing their recovery.

Non-Addictive Medications  

I would say that most of the people that I treat take some sort of prescription medications. Many take antidepressants (like Zoloft, Lexapro, Effexor, Wellbutrin, etc.) These medications impact a neurochemical called serotonin in the brain. They aren’t addictive. In fact, I spend a lot of my time, trying to get people to take their medications consistently.  

An important thing to understand… Many people initially become vulnerable to developing an addiction due to an underlying depression or anxiety issue (both connected to serotonin). So, I personally believe it would be UNWISE not to address this issue.  It could put your recovery at risk if you need to take a prescription medicine but refuse to do so.  

There are other non-addictive medications that are common for people in early recovery, such as medications to help you sleep. I generally steer people away from the addictive sleep aides because there are several safer options available. I do think it’s important to get adequate sleep because the chances of relapse go up significantly without at least 7 hours nightly.  I have heard sponsors say “lack of sleep never killed anyone”, but I think it might have made lots of people vulnerable to relapse.  Of course, there are non-medication strategies for sleep as well.   

Medications that Have Potential for Addiction 

In my early counseling days, I was very limited in my thinking about any sort of medication that could possibly become addicting. I’m still very cautious in my thinking about this, but I’m not an automatic “no” anymore on the issue. My general thinking is this… 

I think it’s generally a bad idea to take any sort of medication that is in the same family as something they have abused before! ***** Obviously, this is a doctors’ decision, NOT MINE, but these are just my general thoughts on the matter.  

Taking a medication that has addiction potential is definitely a risk, so you should be very honest with your doctor about your history and put a lot of thought into the situation. There is no definite yes or no to the question. Be cautious!  

Medications Used to Help With Cravings 

There are some medications that are specifically used to help with cravings but are not addictive. These medications have various degrees of helpfulness, but I generally don’t see that they put people at a greater risk of relapse. Some examples of these medications would be Naltrexone, Gabapentin, Antabuse, Campral, Vivitrol, and many others.   

Replacement Medications  

These are typically medications that have some addictive potential and are used to replace the drug of choice, for detoxing or maintenance purposes.  The most common ones are methadone and suboxone. This topic is very controversial and needs further explanation. Please see my article about replacement medications to learn more about this topic.  

Only You Can Truly Know If You’re Cheating!

I don’t believe that addiction is about a drug. It’s about obsession. You always need to be mindful of your thinking.  If you find that you are fixating on having a medication (how much to have, what’s the dose, scared of running out, wanting to take more than prescribed, etc.), then you should talk to your doctor, counselor, sponsor, and/or recovery coach about it. 

There is a distinct difference between how a person struggling with addiction thinks about the substance. It’s this thinking difference that’s the important factor to be considered. Recovery requires honesty, so be mindful of how you are thinking about the prescription medications you take. If you find yourself withholding information from your doctor (particularly about your addiction history), this is a warning sign. If you find yourself wanting to exaggerate symptoms to get a particular medication (or a larger dose), this is also a warning sign.  

Remember you can be addicted to lots of things, not just chemicals. Recovery management is about sanity management. If anything starts to consume too much of your thoughts, it can become a problem. If you are in need of addiction treatment in South Carolina, contact us.