Why do I need to tell my doctor that I am in recovery?
The decision to stop using alcohol or other drugs is very important to your health. If your doctor knows that you have made this decision, he or she can support you and treat any medical problems that may occur during your recovery. For example, mood changes, such as irritability, anger, depression, anxiety, insomnia (problems sleeping) and problems with sex, are common in the first few months of recovery. If you have any of these problems and discuss them honestly with your doctor, he or she can help you deal with them.
If you were taking medicine, such as blood pressure medicine, during the time when you were drinking or using drugs, your doctor may need to adjust the dose of this medicine now that you're in recovery.
In the past, you may not have been honest with your doctor about how much, how often and how long you used alcohol or other drugs. If you have abused prescription medicines, you may be uncomfortable telling your doctor. Perhaps you're afraid that if you share this information, he or she won't prescribe medicines when you need them. No matter what your past relationship with your doctor was--whether or not you were open about your alcohol or drug problem--your future relationship needs to be based on honesty. You must work together to support your long-term recovery.
Is it safe to take medicine for pain or anxiety if I am recovering from alcohol or drug abuse?
In general, taking medicines for anxiety or pain for a long time can increase your risk of a relapse. For this reason, your doctor may want you to try other ways of relieving any pain, anxiety or insomnia you have. For example, your doctor may suggest that you try physical therapy, ice or heat on the area where you have pain, or massage therapy. These methods are often helpful. Non-opiate (not addictive) pain medicines can also be helpful in relieving pain if other methods don't work. Using relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, may also help relieve feelings of stress and anxiety.
When your doctor prescribes a medicine such as a benzodiazepine or an opiate because other methods don't work to relieve your pain or anxiety, discuss the risk of relapse with your doctor. The two of you can work together to find the safest treatment. If you are active in a 12-step program or another self-help support program, you should let your fellow members know that you are taking one of these medicines.
Is it safe to take an antidepressant if depression is a problem during my recovery?
Major depression is a serious medical condition and often must be treated with an antidepressant. When appropriately prescribed and used, antidepressants do not carry a risk of relapse. Based on your recovery status, your doctor will be able to tell you if an antidepressant is right for you.
During the first few months of recovery, you may find that participating in a self-help support group can help with depressed feelings. It is very important to let your doctor know if you are involved in such a group.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff.
American Academy of Family Physicians