Addiction recovery is generally a life long process. As such, very few addicts will call themselves “recovered” addicts, but rather “recovering” addicts – no matter how long they have been clean. Addiction recovery is often very different for different addicts as well, since the level of a person’s addiction and the long-term effects of the substance of their addiction varies as well.
For this reason, the question of whether to take pain medication after surgery should ultimately be left up to the addict. If an addict genuinely needs pain medication that they don’t receive, they will find some other way of getting relief, which generally only complicates things. Above all else, addicts have to be both in charge of and responsible for their own recovery, which means the choice must be theirs. If they choose to take pain medication, it does not always mean they will either develop an addiction or are giving in to their addiction either. There is still much to be learned about the causes of addiction and what drives one versus another.
Some people are prone to simply transferring their addiction from one substance to another, while others are very specifically addicted to one singular substance. An alcoholic may have absolutely no interest in drugs of any kind and never develop a drug addiction, while a heroin addict may have absolutely zero interest in alcohol and never develop an alcohol addiction regardless of how much they are exposed to it.
Recovering addicts should most definitely consult with both their doctor and their support network before having the surgery to determine whether or not pain medication is right for them. If a recovering addict has an opioid addiction, then there may be other types of pain medication or management that their doctor can suggest. If an alcoholic has had exposure to opioids in the past but not developed an addiction, they stand a better chance of not developing one, but still need to be monitored closely.
There are fairly specific behaviors that addicts will often engage in when they are either engaging with the substance of their addiction or developing a new addiction. Other addicts are also adept at recognizing these behaviors, which is why support groups are so important. Support groups not only provide understanding for the issues that recovering addicts face, but they are also wise to the ways of addicts and can recognize the subtle cues that someone is using again or developing another addiction.
Any recovering addict should have some serious and frank discussions with both their doctor and support people before taking any kind of pain medication. Together, they can reach a joint and informed decision and help monitor the recovering addict closely if they choose to take pain medication.
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