Feeling ill or in pain and needing to go to the doctor is enough to cause strife for anyone. However, finding yourself feeling ill or in pain and needing to go to the doctor as a recovering addict can cause you even more strife. After all, you need help from the very person who may be able to flush your recovery straight down the drain.

What if you find yourself with a doctor or dentist who wants to prescribe you a painkiller to take care of your health situation? Do not take any chances by just trying the pills. Never justify your actions by using the excuse, “the doctor prescribed them to me so I must take them.”

By taking the following precautions, you and your doctor can focus on getting you healthier, while avoiding having to use painkillers to do so.

Be up front and open about your substance abuse history

Completing paperwork about your medical history is always required when visiting a doctor or dentist for the first time. It is extremely important to answer the questions honestly and in depth. In fact, give as much information as possible to ensure that your history will be understood and not overlooked.

Provide the doctor with your addiction history – including all the substances that were used – as well as a history of your treatment. The more information your doctor has, the better he or she will be able to successfully treat you.

If you are not new to your doctor and are not required to fill out additional paperwork, then be sure to tell the receptionist when you check in. Let them know, discreetly, of course, that there has been a change in your medical history and you would like to update your file.

Always understand the prescriptions before you leave 

Doctors and dentists are busy people. Sometimes they float in and out of their exam rooms so quickly that you question whether you even saw them! If this is the situation you find yourself in and your doctor did not clearly go over any prescriptions he or she will be writing for you, then you may be a bit confused when you are handed a script.

Physician’s writing is nearly impossible to read. Sure, the internet is great for gaining knowledge about pills, but it doesn’t do you any good if you can’t read it the handwriting!

Before you leave the doctor’s office, ask what medicine the script is for and what type of medicine it is. At the very least, you can ask someone at the check-out desk. The office staff will be able to either read the doctor’s handwriting or find out for you.

Discuss other options with your doctor

If your dentist or doctor inadvertently prescribes you any type of opioid painkiller (or any addictive substance), be sure to alert him or her immediately. Discuss your addiction history and see if there are other options for treatment. Many doctors are very quick to hand out these common pills to treat a wide array of ailments. The truth is, there are tons of different drugs out there to treat many, many conditions. While opioids may be the best and most efficient method for treatment, it will not hurt to try something else on the market.

Your doctor may have to try several different medications and tweak the dosage to get the necessary benefit for your healing. It is important that you and your doctor weigh the benefits – and the risks – of the prescribed medication. Work with your doctor to closely observe your medication use to ensure you are getting the proper dosage and not forming any addictive behaviors.

Keep an eye out for these signs of prescription drug addiction:

  • You begin to have actual “cravings” for the drug.
  • Increased tolerance for the drug. You find yourself having to increase the amount of the drug you are taking to feel its effects.
  • If you run out of the drug or stop taking it altogether, you feel your body going through withdrawal.
  • If you continuously take the pills to avoid having to feel withdrawal symptoms.

If you do find yourself becoming addicted to any prescribed medication, be sure to contact your doctor immediately.

Confirm that your medical records are noted

Mistakes happen. What you may find as being life-altering important, someone else may find insignificant. Or perhaps that data entry clerk was distracted and missed your special note you scribbled about your history of addiction.

To see that none of these happen, you will want to confirm that your medical records are noted – and noted well. Having a little note in the bottom of your file from eight years ago will not help your doctor remember what not to prescribe you today. Ask that the doctor or the staff note the file so it will be in view for the doctor at each visit. Doing so will reduce the chance for being prescribed something you shouldn’t be taking, as well as keeping you from having to deal with any awkward or uncomfortable situations.

Remain strong and confident in your sobriety

Believe it or not, you are one strong individual. You have fought your battles with addiction, conquered treatment, and have entered your new sober life. Having this strength and confidence in your sobriety will help if you find yourself face to face with temptation – such as holding onto a prescription for opioid painkillers.

Remember the skills you learned and why you found your way into sobriety. Do not allow one unintentional medical mistake to send you spiraling. If you need to, think of the possible consequences if you take that first pill – Who will it affect? What will it cost you? Will you even be able to stop after just one?

Work to create a close relationship with your doctor. Being honest and open about your addiction history and your treatment, as well as your weaknesses and your triggers, can help ensure your doctor can give you a safe means to get healthy when you are down.