What Your Physician Needs To Know/Self-advocacy

Talking with our doctors about our history with chemical dependency and understanding this critical part of our overall recovery, as many of us know, without correct treatment, our addiction is a progressive, terminal, and potentially fatal disease for which there is no known cure. Alongside the mental, spiritual, and emotional work we do each day to grow in recovery, our physical well-being must not be forgotten. One of the most important components to our physical health is in the relationship we have with our doctors and his/her staff.

 

Here are some helpful things to remember when choosing or visiting your physician:

It is very important that our healthcare professional understand the nature of our history with active addiction:

When completing a new patient form, be sure to be completely honest and accurate regarding your drug of choice, how much and how long you had used. When you speak with your doctor or another staff member, you can say ‘I’m in recovery. This is what I’ve used and this is how long I’ve been sober. I’m concerned that many things may have been negatively affected by my addiction. Can I have a full workup?’ This information will be helpful in determining the current state of your overall health and avoid medications that can be a risk to your recovery.


Be sure there is a clear and prominent reference in your chart stating: “I am an individual in recovery from addiction and I do not want to be prescribed addictive medications such as narcotics.


By law, any and all information you disclose to your healthcare provider is private and extremely confidential.

 

Even though it will be important for our medical professionals to understand which type of medications pose a risk to our recovery, it’s even more important that we understand which questions to ask when being prescribed a new medication. You can be your own advocate by:

Asking your healthcare professional if the new medication is at all habit forming,


If there is a potential for the medication to become habit forming, do not be afraid to ask your provider if he/she can research to see if there is an available and safer alternative.


Conducting your own research. Your doctor is a great resource and can be very helpful, however mistakes can be made. You can find several websites containing accurate information just by typing the name of the prescribed medication into your favorite search engine. Look for words such as ‘habit forming’ and information regarding other medications that you should not take at the same time. You might be taking that medication and not know it.


Discussing the medication with your pharmacist. With the thousands of different medications now available for all types of conditions, it makes sense to gather as much information and additional opinions as you can. Your recovery is too important not to!

 

Relapse is not a requirement for achieving long term sobriety - but it does happen. In the event of a return to chemical use, it is very important that in addition to getting recovery support, we communicate a relapse to a healthcare professional as soon as possible; this can include your doctor. DO NOT be fearful of asking your doctor and/or staff for help as they can be a great resource in assisting you in receiving the immediate and appropriate care that you need.