I’m an Addict & Alcoholic: Telling Your Doctor & Pharmacist

Why would I tell my doctor I’m in recovery?

Some may have been referred to treatment by their physicians, in which case it is no great secret to their health care provider that they have a substance abuse problem. But many others reach recovery on their own or through other channels, or have several doctors that treat multiple problems and prescribe medication for various issues. As well as being able to refer additional sources of support, having your doctor fully aware of your addiction(s) will enable him/her to give you better medical care and help you avoid certain medications which have become commonly regarded as riskier for those in recovery to take. Those who have been addicted to prescription medications may find this particularly difficult but also an essential part of their recovery – often referred to as “telling on yourself” by those who are recovering prescription addicts. For the same reason, you may want to speak briefly with your dentist as well regarding alternate pain medications, especially if this has been an issue for you.

Why would I tell my pharmacist?

Especially those who have more than one prescribing physician might want to consider speaking to their pharmacist about the effects of any prescribed medications when combined. It is also a primary job of pharmacists to keep up-to-date on the latest information on each medication, whereas physicians have a much larger scope of responsibilities.

When should I talk to my doctor & pharmacist about my recovery?

As a physical health issue, it should be discussed with your physician as soon as possible. The abuse of alcohol and other drugs can damage our bodies directly and indirectly, and the additional knowledge may help your doctor keep you healthy or help your body return to health. He or she may also may want to screen for certain problems such as HIV or Hepatitis B/C if you have been using IV (intravenous) drugs or engaging in other risky behavior as a result of drug & alcohol use. It is not uncommon for chronic alcohol abusers to have a liver test to assess if any damage has been done as a result of their drinking.

How do I bring it up?

For some, the subject of our newfound sobriety is exciting news – we’re ready to shout it from the rooftops. For others however, it is a difficult topic to breach even under the best of circumstances. It is helpful for the apprehensive to remember a few simple things. First, it is likely that your physician already has some insight into your condition. It is their job to notice these things – so it may not come as such a surprise as you think! Second, try to remember that you are probably not the first addict / alcoholic patient that your doctor has had, so this won’t send him to the PDR scratching his head. Third, some are afraid that their doctors will treat them differently, and in this case my own experience has shown it is true – most doctors have a great deal of respect for patients who identify and honestly communicate their substance abuse problems with their health care providers. In fact, this holds true for the majority of health care professionals including pharmacists, psychiatrists, nurses, and paramedics.

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