One of the most important questions discussed in the sobriety community today is, are you still sober if you take prescribed medications that have a psychoactive effect?
This question gets to the root of what it means to actually be “sober.” When most people think about sobriety, they think about abstinence from psychoactive drugs as well as any mind-altering drug. For the more dogmatic follower, that means all drugs are avoided, including:
- Depression medication
- Anxiety medication
- Bipolar disorder medication
- Methadone, buprenorphine
- Opiate pain medication
In the 12-step community, many people believe psychological disorders can be managed by further dedication to the program and trust in the higher power.
Anecdotes of this way of thinking are not hard to come by. Some people have been known to break up with their sponsors over a disagreement of what constitutes true sobriety. The conflict has become so pervasive that Alcoholics Anonymous has publicly addressed the issue in their pamphlet The AA Member – Medications and Other Drugs.
The viewpoint that people should not take psychoactive medication while in recovery seems to be an extension of faith in the 12-step program. Most addicts probably believed at some point that they could never get sober. They believed that they would be an addict for the rest of their lives. After getting sober through the 12-step program, some are inclined to believe it possible to treat depression or bipolar disorder the same way one treats addiction–discipline, faith, and community.
However, the mindset that using psychoactive medications negates your sobriety can also be problematic for people with medical conditions. For instance, some have committed suicide while in recovery after refusing doctor-ordered depression medicine.
Alcoholics Anonymous Advocates Safety and Treatment
The ruling on the matter from AA seems clearly laid out in The AA Member – Medications and Other Drugs. “It becomes clear that just as it is wrong to enable or support any alcoholic to become re-addicted to any drug, it’s equally wrong to deprive any alcoholic of medication which can alleviate or control other disabling physical and/or emotional problems.”
Medical Detox Treats Addiction and Other Disorders
If you have given up your medications for the sake of sobriety, good for you. You were one of the lucky ones. But for those who have thought about giving up their medication, it may not be worth the price.