Alcoholics Anonymous on Medications and other drugs
Let’s face it in my own experience some doctors have major prejudice against drug addicts. Alcoholics not so much. Doctors don’t care if you drank. They do get angry though over the many dope fiends who have tried to hustle them for pills over and over and over again. In retaliation (perhaps even subconsciously) they have been knows to withhold drugs from professed drug addicts in desperate situations of illness, injury, emergency, and health issues. In early recovery it’s vital we don’t walk out of a doctors office with the very instrument to bring us to our death. But at the same time in hospitals and controlled settings, surgery, and injury WE ARE NOT MARTYRS. We deserve the same pain relief as the next guy. We should not be punished for our histories by which we have surely suffered enough. If you want God to be your only pain relief after surgery fine, but don’t demand it of anyone else or infer we are not sober because we needed to take meds from a doctor.
http://draonline.org/medications.html Another informative article with A.A. & N.A.’s views on the matter. Though neither organizations takes into account the numerous pill pushing doctors who will be your best enablers is you take their advice. Therefore to thine own self be true.
Here is AA’s Pamphlet on the Topic of Medications
Alcoholics Anonymous® is a fellowship of men and
women who share their experience, strength and
hope with each other that they may solve their
common problem and help others to recover
• The only requirement for membership is a
desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or
fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting
through our own contributions.
• A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination,
politics, organization or institution; does not wish
to engage in any controversy; neither endorses
nor opposes any causes.
• Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help
other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
Copyright © by A.A. Grapevine, Inc.;
reprinted with permission
Copyright © 1984, 2011
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.
475 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10115
Mail address: Box 459, Grand Central Station
New York, NY 10163
75M – 10/15 (DG3)
Because this subject involves important medical
decisions, a group of physicians who are members
of A.A. and two physicians who are friends of
A.A. were asked to review this pamphlet.
Some A.A. members must take prescribed
medication for serious medical problems.
However, it is generally accepted that the misuse
of prescription medication and other drugs
can threaten the achievement and maintenance
of sobriety. It may be possible to minimize the
threat of relapse if the following suggestions are
• No A.A. member should “play doctor”; all
medical advice and treatment should come from a
• Active participation in the A.A. program of
recovery is a major safeguard against alcoholic
• Be completely honest with your doctor and
yourself about the way you take your medicine.
Let your doctor know if you skip doses or take
more medicine than prescribed.
• Explain to your doctor that you no longer
drink alcohol and you are trying a new way of life
• Let your doctor know at once if you have a
desire to take more medicine or if you have side
effects that make you feel worse.
• Be sensitive to warnings about changes in
your behavior when you start a new medication
or when your dose is changed.
• If you feel that your doctor does not
understand your problems, consider making an
appointment with a physician who has experience
in the treatment of alcoholism.
• Give your doctor copies of this pamphlet.
From the earliest days of Alcoholics
Anonymous it has been clear that many alcoholics
have a tendency to become dependent on
drugs other than alcohol. There have been tragic
incidents of alcoholics who have struggled to
achieve sobriety only to develop a serious problem
with a different drug. Time and time again,
A.A. members have described frightening and
sobriety-threatening episodes that could be related
to the misuse of medication or other drugs.
Experience suggests that while some prescribed
medications may be safe for most nonalcoholics
when taken according to a doctor’s
instructions, it is possible that they may affect the
alcoholic in a different way. It is often true that
these substances create dependence as devastating
as dependence on alcohol. It is well known
that many sedatives have an action in the body
similar to the action of alcohol. When these drugs
are used without medical supervision, dependence
can readily develop.
Many A.A.s who have taken over-the-counter,
nonprescription drugs have discovered the alcoholic’s
tendency to misuse. Those A.A.s who have
used street drugs, ranging from marijuana to heroin,
have discovered the alcoholic’s tendency to
become dependent on other drugs. The list goes
on and will lengthen as new drugs are developed.
Always consult your doctor if you think medication
may be helpful or needed.
Note to medical professionals
Cooperation with the professional community has
been an objective of Alcoholics Anonymous since
its beginnings. Professionals who work with alcoholics
share a common purpose with Alcoholics
Anonymous: to help the alcoholic stop drinking
and lead a healthy, productive life.
As noted in the introduction, some A.A.
members must take prescribed medications.
However, our experience indicates that the misuse
of prescription medication can threaten the
achievement and maintenance of sobriety. The
suggestions provided in our introduction are
offered to help A.A. members find the right balance
and minimize the risk of relapse.
We recognize that alcoholics are not immune
to other diseases. Some of us have had to cope
with depressions that can be suicidal; schizophrenia
that sometimes requires hospitalization;
bipolar disorder, and other mental and
biological illnesses. Also among us are diabetics,
epileptics, members with heart trouble, cancer,
allergies, hypertension, and many other serious
Because of the difficulties that many alcoholics
have with drugs, some members have taken
the position that no one in A.A. should take any
medication. While this position has undoubtedly
prevented relapses for some, it has meant disaster
A.A. members and many of their physicians
have described situations in which depressed
patients have been told by A.A.s to throw
away the pills, only to have depression return
with all its difficulties, sometimes resulting
in suicide. We have heard, too, from members
with other conditions, including schizophrenia,
bi-polar disorder, epilepsy and others
requiring medication, that well-meaning
A.A. friends discourage them from taking any
prescribed medication. Unfortunately, by following
a layperson’s advice, the sufferers find
that their conditions can return with all their
previous intensity. On top of that, they feel
guilty because they are convinced that “A.A. is
It becomes clear that just as it is wrong to
enable or support any alcoholic to become readdicted
to any drug, it’s equally wrong to deprive
any alcoholic of medication, which can alleviate
or control other disabling physical and/or emotional
Some A.A. members who have required medication
share their experience:
“Each time I abruptly stopped taking my
medication my symptoms got worse and
my suicidal depressions came back.”
I came into A.A. not only with an alcohol problem,
but also with depression. Originally I started
drinking to remedy my depression, but when
drinking stopped working I went to a psychiatrist
who treated me with an antidepressant and a tranquilizer.
With my depression under control, I was
totally shocked at my first A.A. meeting when one
of the first questions I was asked was, “Are you
taking any pills?”
Because people in the A.A. program now knew
I was taking pills, there was constant harassment
from that day on to “stop using a crutch,” to “get
honest” with myself, and to “get away from the
shrink — A.A. is all you need.”
I vacillated for three years, until one afternoon
I just stopped taking all pills. Within 24 hours I
went on a trip from which I wasn’t sure I would
ever return— a trip of hallucinations, paranoia,
fear, and obsessions. When this happened, I went
into a rehab.
In the months that followed, I was hospitalized
many times. Doctors disagreed among themselves
about my diagnosis, and my problems
in my A.A. group resumed because of all the
“medical advice” I was receiving from some A.A.
members. I had to choose between my doctors
and A.A., and I chose A.A. time after time. Each
time I abruptly stopped taking my medication my
symptoms got worse and my suicidal depressions
Following a suicide attempt and another hospitalization,
I contacted yet another physician,
who diagnosed me as manic depressive and prescribed
lithium. Even though I had known something
was wrong with me since I was a teenager,
manic depression was a total shock. I now understand,
however, that it’s just another disease and
there are meetings for manic depression in my
Today I have an entirely different attitude
about taking medication. I have only one judge,
my Higher Power, and it really doesn’t matter
who knows that I take lithium for my disease. I
am aware that some people still talk about my
being “on something,” but that’s okay.
I stay sober today with the help of a home
group, with Step and discussion meetings and,
most important, with my Higher Power.
“Certainly, the decision to take medication
should be made primarily between a
doctor who is informed about alcoholism
and a patient who is informed about the
My name is Julie, and I am an alcoholic. After
fourteen years of sobriety in A.A., I am under a
physician’s care for severe depression and am
taking an antidepressant medication, as prescribed.
When I first came to A.A., the main thing
I had to deal with, of course, was my alcoholism,
and that is what I did. I became active in
my home group, got a wonderful sponsor, and
began using the Twelve Steps in my life right
away. One of the first things that I learned in
A.A. was that I had to separate my problems,
which was a good thing to learn because I had a
lot of them on my mind.
Eventually it became clear to me that there
were many things that I had to face, including the
ramifications of the severe abuse I had suffered
as a child. So I went into therapy and started
working on these problems. When I became suicidal
my therapist suggested medication to help
me cope with severe depression. Unfortunately
my first consultation was with a doctor who did
not know anything about alcoholism. I obtained a
prescription for what I thought was an antidepressant
but later learned was a tranquilizer. I took
the pill and immediately wanted to take another. I
had to be honest. I debated with myself for about
an hour before I finally threw the pills away.
I then requested a second opinion from a physician
who had been the head of an alcoholism
rehabilitation center. She knew much more about
alcoholism from a medical point of view than I, and
she prescribed the antidepressant I am now taking.
During all this time, of course, I have been
close to the A.A. program and am being as honest
with myself as possible about the medication. The
medication has enabled me to continue working
on the root causes of my problems, and I know
that this work is essential to my staying sober.
I think it is very important for anyone in the
program who is considering taking medication to
get as much information as possible. Above all,
the decision to take medication should be made
primarily between a doctor who is informed about
alcoholism and a patient who is informed about
“I had to trust my doctors with my medical
problems — not blindly, but with a
regular review of my healing program
and medical needs.”
After several hospitalizations for alcoholism
and serious gastrointestinal problems, I came
into A.A. on the advice of a psychiatrist at the
Veterans Administration hospital where I was
being treated. This doctor helped me see alcoholism
as my primary problem and the root of a
totally unmanageable life. I attended A.A. meetings
at the hospital and continued in A.A. after I
I have been happily sober in A.A. for many
years now, but during the first nine years of my
recovery I suffered from celiac disease. During
those early years I was physically miserable.
When I came into A.A., I was taking tranquilizing
medication under the direction of a physician
knowledgeable about alcoholism. Every month
I had the opportunity to review the prescription
with him. For about a year and a half, I continued
to take the medication, and my A.A. home
group, my sponsor, and other good A.A. friends
were supportive of my doctor’s orders. Others,
a minority, were not so understanding. Some of
them urged me to throw away the pills and “never
mind the physical problems.” This advice was
guilt producing and emotionally disturbing.
I stayed sober one day at a time and learned
how to use A.A. principles in my life. My prescrip-
tion was gradually reduced, and by the time I was
sober about a year and a half I no longer required
In retrospect, knowing the nature of my physical
illness and the benefits of the medication in
terms of helping rebuild my intestinal tract, I
would consider the negative advice I received as
ethically irresponsible and dangerous. I had to
trust my doctors with my medical problems —
not blindly, but with a regular review of my healing
program and medical needs.
The time came when there was no need for
this prescribed tranquilizer. I stopped taking the
medication and have not taken anything since.
There was no physical withdrawal, but I did
experience a psychological attachment that was
uncomfortable. I shared this with my sponsor
and used the A.A. program to release myself
from that bondage.
“I no longer felt that I was just trying to
cope by taking a pill. I had real symptoms.”
I started drinking at age 14, and I smoked pot
every day. If I did not use the marijuana, I think I
would have drunk 24/7. I could still go to school
when I smoked pot, but not when I drank. Later,
when I was 18, I started using cocaine along with
alcohol to try and stay out of blackouts.
After I graduated high school, I went to
business school, and then to a job in accounting.
I was still drinking and drugging, though,
and spent a lot of time sleeping at work, right
at my desk.
I am sober 11 years now. My last drink came
on my daughter’s second birthday. We had a
party for her, and I cracked open the keg a
couple hours before it started. I blacked out, and
to this day I don’t remember what happened.
Whatever happened, though, it shook up my
mother, who called in a crisis team the next day.
I felt somewhat relieved because I had been telling
myself that I should be put away, that my
behavior was insane. I told the team about all
the drinking, and all the drugs I was doing, and
they recommended I go into detox.
My husband at the time did not want me to
have any part of A.A., did not want me to go
there “with all those losers.” I told the crisis team
that I couldn’t go to detox because there was
no one to take care of my kids. They wished me
luck, and I held on for about nine days on my
own. Desperate, I called Intergroup and went to a
meeting. I started going to meetings and eventually
I told my husband that I had joined A.A. We
had a big fight, but over time my relationship
with him changed. I started getting stronger.
Then, when I was two and a half years sober, my
husband died in a motorcycle accident. The night
it happened I went to a meeting. I knew that when
things are bad, I have to be at a meeting.
Some time later I met Gary, an A.A. member,
who is now my husband. Up until this point in my
recovery, I do not feel that I suffered depression.
Then I had my fourth child, a daughter. About a
year after her birth I started feeling awful. I went
to more meetings, but unlike in the past it wasn’t
helping. My emotions were either sad, mad or
Finally I went to a doctor. I told her about my
recovery, and she prescribed an antidepressant.
I started getting used to the medication, and
it seemed to be working. But after a few months
I was feeling angry and sad again. I questioned
taking the antidepressant, fearing I just wanted
to use a pill to solve my problems. I started going
to more meetings again, and I picked up my
service work, but I continued to feel worse
I felt as if I wasn’t working the program, that I
wasn’t doing enough, even though I went to meetings
every day. I was spiraling downward. There
was one day when I was driving to go get the
kids, and I wanted to go to the bar. On another
occasion I got very angry with my son and ended
up smacking him in the head. That was it for me,
because I did not hit my children.
I talked to my doctor about my concern that
I was using medicine when I should be able to
handle life better myself. He gave me a pamphlet
to read, which consisted of a bunch of questions.
The questions reminded me of our pamphlet, “Is
A.A. for You?” Reading the pamphlet made me feel
better. I no longer felt that I was just trying to cope
by taking a pill. I had real symptoms. He put me on
a different antidepressant, and I felt much better.
Recently, I began having tremendous pain in
my hips, and my doctor prescribed medicine for
that too. I am very wary of taking anything new,
and my doctor starts me off slow. I value my
sobriety, so I question everything with my doctor,
and I try to be careful.
“One day, I came upon a billboard that
said something like ‘Depression is a
chemical imbalance in the brain, not a
I rode the pink cloud for over a decade in sobriety.
I was single and pretty much free to do as
I pleased, so I was able to give a lot of time to
A.A., and the rewards were great. I felt good
almost all the time. My career took off, and I had
a great relationship with my girlfriend. Even after
we married, and I needed to spend more time
being a good husband, I very much enjoyed the
benefits of living a spiritual life and being in the
My career peaked when I was offered a vice
presidency at a large corporation. I did my best
to be humble and stay grounded. While all this
great career movement took place, my wife and
I started our family. When my daughter turned
two, we found out that my son was on his way.
We had a nice home and a good income, so everything
Trouble loomed around the corner. The business
started a very fast decline, to the point
where I had to cut the staff by eighty percent.
Then I got transferred to a much less prestigious
position. My two children both had problems that
we did not know about when they were infants. I
felt so angry with God. Why, when I did all that
I could for A.A., and the program turned my
life around, would God give my children these
problems? I felt betrayed, infuriated, devastated
and I went into a deep depression. I felt tired all
the time, angry with everyone, even suicidal. At
times, I couldn’t bear to be in a meeting where
people shared about their happiness or gratitude.