Holidays, a New Year and Prescription Drugs

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope

pair-347220_640Prescription drug abuse is something that countless individuals struggle with across the nation.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the most commonly abused prescription medications include opioid medications for treating pain, such as Morphine and Oxycodone, stimulant medications, such as Ritalin and Adderall, and drugs that depress the Central Nervous System, such as Valium, Ativan, and Xanax [1].

If you or a loved one has struggled with prescription medication abuse and addiction, you can likely relate to the detrimental consequences that result from this. Prescription drug addiction will impact you physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, socially, and more.

Seeing Life Restored After Recovery

The good news is that recovery can begin today. As a person heals and recovers from their addiction, they will see different aspects of their life begin to be restored, including physical health, relationships, and emotional and mental stability.

The important thing to realize is that recovery from prescription drugs is a lifelong commitment. While recovery does happen gradually, maintaining sobriety does also gradually become easier over time.

As recovery lapses over many seasons of change and time, it is also helpful to be aware of how certain experiences impact the recovery process or the types of triggers that you may potentially be exposed to.

Triggers for Prescription Drug Abuse

night-3072_640The holiday season is such a time period that for some, may bring out many concerns. While often a joyous occasion, this time period can be overwhelming for many, exposing vulnerabilities in the person recovering from a prescription drug addiction. Sudden urges to use prescription medications can occur through the following possible scenarios during the holiday season:

Increased stress:

The many pressures that come along with the holiday season can bring heightened stress. Increased stress may trigger urges to use prescription medications, either to deal with overstimulation, keep up with more demands, or simply to numb pain.

Exposure to prescription medications:

Perhaps you are traveling or visiting family/friends during the holiday season. While at home you may not have access to any old prescription medications, you may find yourself with open access to drugs on the road.

Co-occurring depression or anxiety:

Mood disorders commonly occur with substance abuse, such as depression and anxiety conditions. Though you may have maintained sobriety from drug use, a mood disorder can still be present. Depression and/or anxiety can be easily triggered by various circumstances, especially around the holidays.

A flare up in a mood disorder may also trigger prescription drug use, as medications may have been commonly used in the past to deal with these issues.

As an individual who has worked to maintain sobriety from prescription medication, it is important to maintain awareness of the possible triggers you may encounter along your recovery journey. Having insight into these possible scenarios can better prepare you for dealing with these triggers, which will occur at any time in your life, including the holidays.

Having a Game Plan

Having a game plan for effectively coping with triggers will be key to maintaining sobriety and recovery. This may include:

  • Regularly meeting with a therapist/counselor
  • Having an accountability partner or mentor
  • Practicing mindfulness and self-care techniques
  • Staying involved in an addiction support group
  • Pre-planning events to minimize triggering encounters

You Are Ultimately in Control

joy-233380_640If you or a loved one is working to maintain sobriety from prescription medications, you may find the holiday season especially challenging. However, understand that you are ultimately the one in control of your life and your recovery.

If you are unsure how to make it through a hard time in your life and maintain sobriety from prescription medications, be it the holidays or any other time, do not feel like you have to do this alone.

There are countless individuals who have walked this path before you successfully. With the right tools and support, you too can navigate your way through the recovery process and find true freedom from the bondage of addiction to prescription medications.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

If you are in recovery from prescription drug abuse, what coping techniques have helped you in your recovery? How do you approach the holiday season or any time when you might be exposed to many triggers?


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Featured Publication: Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs Chart”, Accessed 29 Dec 2014.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 12th, 2015
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