What to Do If a Doctor Prescribes You Painkillers

Care for your health without jeopardizing your sobriety.



Although you’ll ultimately need to make the decision that’s right for you, there are several precautions you can take to ensure that you and your doctor care for your health without jeopardizing your sobriety. Here are four ways to protect your health and recovery.


Make sure your doctor is aware of your history of addiction.

Before you see any new doctor or dentist, you should make sure the office has updated information about your history of addiction. By providing this information, you’ll help medical professionals be more informed about your health history. As a result, they’ll prescribe medications that meet your health needs while also considering the risks related to your history of substance abuse.


If you are seeing a doctor or dentist for the first time, you’ll be asked to fill out some paperwork on your first visit. It’s very important that you’re completely honest about your history of addiction and answer all the questions fully and honestly, to the best of your knowledge. You’ll want to provide as much detail as possible, including when you were addicted, what substances you used, and what your treatment looked like.


On the other hand, if you’re returning to a doctor or dentist that you’ve been to before, you may just need to update your medical records on file. Consider calling the office before your appointment and asking the office staff if you can update your records online or via email before you show up for your appointment. If that’s not an option, you can always ask the receptionist if you can update your file once you arrive at the office.


Get all the details you can about any prescribed medication before you leave your doctor’s office.

Sometimes a visit to the doctor’s office can feel rushed and you may not get to ask all the questions you want to. However, if your doctor or dentist prescribes you medication, it’s important that you take the time to ask all the questions you need. For example, make sure you ask what type of medication it is, how and when you should take it, if it’s addictive, and what kind of side effects you can expect. If you can’t read the doctor’s handwriting on the script, just ask!


After speaking with your doctor about the medication, if you have any concerns about taking it, make sure to voice those concerns and work with your doctor to find an alternative solution if necessary. For example, if your condition does not absolutely require medication, are there any holistic or natural pain treatment options that could help? Or any non-addictive medications that would provide the same relief?


Ask your doctor about alternative medications or treatments.

Just because a doctor or dentist prescribes painkillers, doesn’t mean you have to take them. If you are uncomfortable taking a medication that your doctor prescribes, ask them about alternatives. More than likely, there is another medication or treatment out there that will provide adequate relief. For example, if you need pain relief, other treatment alternatives could include:1

  • Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen

  • Non-drug treatments like exercise, physical therapy, massage therapy, counseling, acupuncture, “cold” therapy

  • Interventional therapies like steroid injections or nerve stimulation

  • Other prescription drugs like anti-seizure drugs

However, you’ll never know what alternatives are available to you unless you ask.

Additionally, your doctor may forget about your history of addiction or neglect to check your patient history forms. In this case, you’ll need to alert them immediately. Discuss your past substance abuse with your doctor and how the medication could potentially affect your recovery.


Although you and your doctor may need to work together and try different things to determine the right medication and dosage, it’s worth the time and effort to find a solution that doesn’t undermine your recovery and that you’re comfortable with.


Get help if you need it.

If you take medication that was prescribed for you by a doctor or dentist and you find that you’re becoming dependent on them, you should seek help immediately and speak with your doctor about it. For example, some signs that you’re developing an unhealthy relationship with your medication could include:

  • Craving the medication

  • Needing higher or more frequent doses to achieve the same effects (developing a tolerance)

  • Taking the medication when it’s not medically necessary

  • Consistently taking the medication to avoid having withdrawal symptoms

References:

  1. https://www.choosingwisely.org/patient-resources/treatments-to-relieve-chronic-pain/

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