Is Medication Safe if I Have an Addiction?

Is Medication Safe If I Have An Addiction?

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Having a history of addiction can make taking medication a frightening experience. While the U.S. battles a major opioid addiction crisis, taking medication for pain or mental illness might be concerning, especially if that substance has the potential to be addictive. This article discusses how to use medicine safely and when and why taking controlled substances might not be safe.

Using Medication When You’re Addicted

If you have an addiction, being prescribed medication can be troubling. There are plenty of common medicines that are easy to become dependent on, yet doctors and psychiatrists prescribe them for various health conditions. These medications have been clinically tested and found to alleviate symptoms in people with a particular illness or disease.

Unfortunately, many misuse prescription drugs and develop an addiction. Suppose you have an addiction to illicit drugs or pharmaceutical medication. In that case, it makes sense to be wary about receiving a prescription for something that could cause a relapse.

Medication Misuse by the Numbers

In 2020, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that among people aged twelve and older, 5.8% of people reported misusing prescription or psychoactive drugs in the last twelve months. Additionally, in the same report, it is estimated that 0.3% of the population has prescription stimulant use disorder, 0.8% has prescription opiate use disorder, and 0.4% has sedative use disorder.

In 2020, approximately 16,416 people died from opiate overdose, 12,290 died from benzodiazepine overdose, and 5,597 died from an antidepressant overdose. Given those numbers, it is certainly understandable to be concerned about taking addictive prescriptions if you already suffer from addiction.

Medication That Is Addictive

Psychiatrists and doctors might prescribe you a drug that can be addictive if misused. Some of the following can also cause drug dependency or be habit-forming:

Opioids: These drugs are prescribed for treating pain. The most common types of this medication are Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycontin, and Fentanyl. These drugs give you a sense of euphoria. This feeling can cause addiction because it affects the reward centers in your brain, resulting in cravings and misuse.

Benzodiazepines: These drugs can slow down brain activity, making you feel sleepy. They are commonly prescribed for anxiety and sleep-related issues. The most common medications in this class are Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax.

Barbiturates: These are not as commonly prescribed but have a long history of misuse. Currently, they are only prescribed for sleep disorders, and seizures, and are present in some migraine medication.

Stimulants: These drugs affect your body by raising alertness, and increasing focus, attention, and energy levels. They can raise dopamine and norepinephrine levels in your brain and are often prescribed to treat ADHD, narcolepsy, and severe depression. Stimulants are addictive because they release dopamine, which activates the reward system in your brain. Activating your reward center might cause you to take more significant amounts to chase that high. Commonly prescribed stimulants are amphetamines like Adderall and Vyvanse and methylphenidates like Ritalin and Concerta.

Symptoms of Medication Dependency

If you are worried that you have become dependent on prescribed medication, or you would like to know what dependency looks like, these are the most common symptoms:

  • Spending a lot of time on activities related to medication use
  • Using medication longer than intended or at a higher dosage than prescribed
  • Developing a tolerance for the medication and needing a higher dosage
  • Being unsuccessful with cutting down or stopping medication usage
  • Stopping or cutting down on activities because of medication usage
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after stopping medication usage
  • Continuing medication usage despite its adverse physical and emotional effects

Be Honest With Your Doctor

If you have an addiction, it is best to be completely transparent with your psychiatrist or primary care practitioner, even though you might initially find yourself hesitant. You may ask questions such as, “What if they do not want to help you because of your past struggles with addiction?” or “What if they think that you are only going to misuse it again?” Being honest with your doctor about your addiction can help create a treatment plan that works best for you and won’t jeopardize your sobriety.

There are plenty of medications that do not cause patients to become addicted. There are plenty of alternatives to taking medication such as physical therapy for pain or talk therapy for mental health. Many addiction treatment programs have moved away from medically assisted treatment (MAT) to other treatment methods that can help with addiction without using medication.

Talk to Your Support System

If you are prescribed medication, talk to your sponsors and loved ones so that they are aware. They can hold you accountable, which is a crucial component of the recovery process. Sponsors can also answer any questions about dealing with medication and offer advice on moving forward.

Suffering from addiction can be difficult on its own, and those who do not might yet forget the risk of being prescribed a potentially addictive medication. You cannot afford to relapse, so it is better to be careful. Talking to your doctor about your addiction can help them work with you to create an informed and safe treatment plan. Most medications do not cause addiction if used as prescribed. However, if you have a history of addiction or are still in the early stages of recovery, it can be much harder to break those habits and safely use those medications. Always err on the side of caution. Finding an alternative is better if you do not feel confident that you can safely use a medicine. Talk to your doctor or psychiatrist about all of your options, and stay informed about the types of medication you may be prescribed. To learn more, call Jaywalker Lodge today at (866) 529-9255

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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