Recovering Drug Addicts and Psychotropic Medications Part 2

In Recovering Drug Addicts and Psychotropic Medications Part 1 we discussed effective ways that a person in recovery from addiction can take needed medications while minimizing the risk of abuse and relapse. In this second half we’ll take a look at the risks involved in order to create a better understanding of how patients – and their doctors – can manage this problem effectively and fairly. Recovering addicts have a right to the same freedom from pain as other patients, but special care must be taken to ensure relapse is mitigated.

While it’s certainly not ideal to prescribe narcotic or psychotropic drugs to people in recovery, it’s not always avoidable. The fact remains that if a patient’s pain is not adequately managed it could lead to severe complications later on. Additionally, the persistent presence of pain can cause an addict to seek out ways to self-medicate and return to use of drugs or alcohol. Dr. Sanjay Gupta describes this issue in a public questions-and-answers session on CNN Health:

“Studies have shown that if a patient does not receive adequate pain treatment in surgical recovery, his tissues don’t tend to heal as well. Pain that goes untreated can also lead to what pain experts refer to as “wind-up,” meaning the spinal cord gets so bombarded with continuous pain signals that it can lead to a longer, more chronic pain situation. So it’s important to “quiet” the spinal cord by bringing the pain under control.” (1)

This means that the delicate issue of addicts using pain medications is equally as troublesome for health care practitioners, who must balance the needs of the patient with a need to protect themselves from liability. The same is true for psychiatrists that must prescribe their patients habit forming drugs like Valium or Adderall. Proper management of patients is critical, and doctors and other health care professionals must be vigilant for signs that the patient is abusing their medications.

These same problems hold true for the recovering alcoholic. Because addiction is a clinical, neurological disease, the particular substance that a person is addicted to doesn’t reclassify the condition somehow – meaning that alcoholism is the same as addiction. Consequently, even alcoholics that have no history of drug use can be at risk of abusing their pain or other medications because the addictive process is the same. Health care workers and people who have received treatment for addiction or alcoholism must be educated in this regard because all too often people make a mistaken disconnection between alcoholism and addiction.

If you’re a recovering addict and you know you’re abusing the drugs that have been prescribed to you for pain management or other legitimate purposes, please call the number at the top of your screen now. We can help you get the right treatment right now, and quickly mitigate any damage that a prolonged relapse event could lead to. We are a group of addiction professionals dedicated to helping people put their Recovery First, and we’re here 24 hours per day to provide you with a free, confidential consultation if you’re ready to get help. Why wait any longer? Call us now.

(1) Gupta, Sanjay Ph.D. What pain relief options does a recovering addict have? July 9th, 2009 CNN Health

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.

You aren't alone. You deserve to get help.
Recovery First is located in Hollywood, Florida, which is easily accessible from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. Our small groups means you get more one-on-one support and make stronger connections with the community. Take the next step toward recovery: learn more about our addiction treatment programs near Florida's Atlantic coast or learn about how rehab is affordable for everyone.