Statistically speaking many men and women who suffer from the disease of addiction have some other type of mental health condition or disorder. Similarly, addiction may be the resulting disease of ongoing drug use that started as a result of wanting to escape some of the feelings associated with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc. Much like the controversy surrounding the effectiveness and safety of medicine assisted treatment options Methadone and Suboxone, there are some who believe that taking controlled substances, even if prescribed and regulated properly by a mental health professional for certain mental health conditions are keeping individuals enslaved to drug addiction. But does treating a mental illness with medication make those who take it an addict? What about medications like Xanax and Klonopin?
Two Schools of Thought: Does Taking Psychiatric Medication Make you a Drug Addict?
Some believe that taking prescribed medication as directed by a physician for mental health related conditions is “ok” and doesn’t make you an addict. However, others feel that taking certain controlled substances may keep an individual in a state of active addiction. Then there are those who feel that certain drugs are more tolerable and acceptable than others. For instance, most people wouldn’t label a patient of depression an addict for regularly taking Zoloft. However, an anxiety patient taking Klonopin or Xanax is often labeled an active addict. Why?
Xanax and Klonopin are “highly addictive” drugs. While drugs themselves don’t really have addictive properties since they don’t have brains and addiction is a brain disease, many men and women form addictions to these medications, thus, buying them off the streets, taking them recreationally or abusing their prescription. These highly controversial drugs are sold relatively inexpensively on the streets and are used as stand-alone drugs or with others to create a feeling of euphoria that’s pleasurable to the addict. Zoloft however, doesn’t seem to produce any kind of “high” and thus, nobody really hears cases of abusing it or using it recreationally. But is there a time and a place where using “addictive” drugs is acceptable?
Are “Highly Addictive” Drugs Ever an Appropriate Form of Treatment?
The publishers, editors and recovery advocates of this community are not doctors or medical professionals. However, we do know that if a mental health condition or disorder is not properly treated, it can be dangerous to not only the person, but to people around them. A recovering addict who isn’t taking the necessary medication to treat their mental health condition may also end up relapsing on stronger, illicit drugs in order to self-medicate.
For example, if someone in addiction treatment and/or recovery has severe anxiety, could it be more of a trigger to just deal with it and suffer than to be on a medication such as Klonopin or Xanax as prescribed by a physician? If someone has ADD and it is untreated, what if they are constantly out of focus resulting in a difficulty functioning at their job or at home?
While Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide believes it is ideal to live drug and medication free, we also believe that it is appropriate and necessary for some men and women, including those in recovery to undergo treatment for other mental health conditions using what may be considered controversial or “highly addictive” drugs. While controversial, there are some people in recovery who take controlled medications without abusing them.
In these exceptional circumstances, we leave whether or not treatment with “highly addictive” medications is appropriate and necessary up to the medical professionals and without judgment to their addiction treatment and recovery. However, we are also aware that some people have been able to manipulate doctors and medical professionals to continue prescribing these drugs to them while they continue to abuse or sell them to others for profit.
Megan’s Thoughts and Experience:
I am not encouraging everyone to go out and get on all these medications, but some people really do need them as a vital part of their recovery. I was dual diagnosed with generalized anxiety and ADD. Without being properly medicated, I was not sleeping, having problems at work and isolating. I tried every non medicinal option before getting prescribed medication. None of those options worked, and one day I had a nervous breakdown and actually tried calling an old dealer to see if their number still worked. I almost relapsed having 90 days clean. My mom took me to see my psychiatrist and I was put on medication. This has been an important tool in my recovery. I only get a one month supply at a time, am drug tested monthly and have to have a 1 hour session with my psychiatrist and counselor each month.
Alternative Options to Medical Treatment for Mental Health
This community encourages men and women with various mental health conditions to try and exhaust all other options before getting prescribed mediation. However, we also believe that there are some legitimate cases where individuals may require medications that are construed as “highly addictive”. This includes medications like Xanax and Klonopin.
It’s our hope to end the stigma and help people recognize that while addicts do have a tendency to abuse medication that not everyone does and there are legitimate cases where a certain controversial medication may be necessary. Most psychiatric medications are accompanied by properties of dependency, which means an individual’s body will physically rely on what they he/she is taking and to avoid withdrawal, he/she would require a taper in the event an individual wants or needs to come off. This however, is different from addiction. See “Addiction Vs. Dependence: What is the Difference?”
Getting Professional Help for Mental Health Conditions or Illness
Anyone suffering from a mental illness is encouraged to reach out to a medical professional for help. A psychiatrist will be able to evaluate you and create a treatment plan. However, if you are a recovering addict, we encourage complete honesty and transparency with your doctor in order to create the most effective treatment plan.
A psychiatrist specializes in mental disorders and will take the time to evaluate you to get an accurate diagnosis. Finding the right medication can be trial and error, and sometimes take time for you to start feeling better. It is also important to also see a therapist or counselor. This way your psychiatrist and counselor can communicate, and they can determine the best option for you.