Contributed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LCP and Founder of Addiction Hope and Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope
Maintaining recovery from prescription drugs involves unwavering dedication and commitment. If you have fought the battle against an addiction to prescription drugs, you likely understand the perseverance that is required in this recovery journey.
Finding lasting recovery not only upholds abstinence from the substance being abused but awareness to the circumstances in your life that may trigger urges to use drugs.
Hard to Avoid Direct Triggers
Situations that directly involve the opportunity to use prescription drugs can serve as a direct trigger to an addict in recovery, whether you have been in recovery for years or mere months. Undergoing a major surgical procedure can be such a situation in which prescription drugs become readily available and justified in their use.
If you are in recovery from prescription drugs and find yourself in such a situation, how can you ensure that your recovery is maintained?
Painkillers Are Common with Surgery
Major surgical procedures are planned ahead or happen rather unexpectedly. Because of the pain and inflammation that typically result post-surgery, prescription painkillers are often prescribed to help alleviate the physical suffering that is can be involved.
Common painkillers prescribed post-surgery include opiate-based drugs, such as:
Many prescription painkillers are highly addictive, even when used as prescribed by a physician. Individuals who have previously been addicted to painkillers must approach these types of scenarios with great vigilance and caution, as the risk of relapse is increased with re-exposure to these substances.
Steps to Help Prevent a Relapse
The good news is that recovery can be maintained with adequate planning and preparation. If you or a loved one is anticipating a surgical procedure in the future and has previously been addicted to prescription drugs, be sure to take these necessary steps for maintaining recovery:
Involve your treatment team:
What professionals have been a part of your treatment and recovery process? Are you regularly meeting with a therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist? Be sure to discuss your upcoming surgery with your trusted treatment professionals.
Processing the situation beforehand can help you better prepare for what may come, including potential triggers. Having the support of your treatment team can be a monumental part of your preparation.
Inform your doctor:
In the appointments leading up to your surgery, be sure to talk with your doctor or surgeon about your history with prescription drug addiction. It is important that your physician fully understands your medical history prior to treatment.
While it can be difficult to disclose your addiction past, do not withhold any relevant information from your physician.
Discuss all options:
With your trusted health professionals and close family/friends, review and research all your options for recovery post-surgery. If you were previously addicted to opioid-based painkillers, research alternative options that do not involve these prescription medications.
Also look into the option of alternative pain relief management techniques that may be helpful in your healing without the use of drugs, such as acupuncture, massage, etc. Be sure to make a well-informed decision about your post-surgery pain management plan.
After a surgery, whether minor or major, it can be easy to withdraw from your normal circle of loved ones. Isolation can trigger addiction relapse. Plan ahead and arrange trusted family and friends to visit you periodically as your recover from your surgery.
Having someone regularly check in with you can offer much needed support and encouragement to stay grounded. Before your actual surgery, set up an appointment with your therapist/counselor post-surgery (when you are physically able). This can help give you the accountability you need to stay focused in your recovery amidst possible triggers.
Have a relapse recovery plan:
Relapse in recovery is a possibility at any point of your journey. Be sure to have a plan in place in the instance that you do have a relapse in your recovery. Should you at any point find yourself struggling with addiction to prescription drugs again, what is your plan?
Identify the people that you can talk to immediately should you stumble. What action steps can you take should you find yourself using prescription drugs again? Put everything in writing as a commitment to your recovery. Relapses are part of the journey, not the end of your recovery or progress.
Follow the Steps to Help Prevent a Relapse
You will likely have instances throughout your life in which you have access to prescription medication, including surgical procedures, in which use of these drugs is appropriate. Follow the necessary steps to plan for maintaining your recovery through any situation you may face.
Recovery is a precious thing and your willingness to do whatever it takes to maintain that sobriety is important and needed.