What Medications Can I Take in Recovery?

Sep 30, 2022

Both over-the-counter (OTC) products and prescription medications can pose a problem for people in recovery. At a time when the focus is on learning how to stay sober, it’s essential to use caution in using substances that may interfere with your recovery or become a replacement drug. So let’s examine which medications to avoid during your recovery and what risk they pose to your sobriety goals.  

A physician who prescribes medication may not be aware of your substance use disorder. In some cases, the prescription may not be suitable for someone with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. While over-the-counter pain relievers may be acceptable to take during recovery, more potent narcotics may present a risk for relapse if not taken according to the doctor’s instructions. A medication guide for people in recovery can provide help in determining if your existing prescriptions or over-the-counter products are safe to take while in treatment for substance use disorders.  

Medications to Avoid in Recovery 

People have lots of reasons to take medications while in recovery. It could be for chronic conditions or short-term needs. Knowing which ones should be off-limits as you begin your recovery work is vital to reduce the risk of relapse.  


The list of drugs to follow contains substances that pose a threat to people in recovery. It’s recommended to avoid them. The full list of drugs to avoid can be found here


Avoid taking any cough medication containing narcotics as they may change your perception of pain, cause sedation, or alter your mood. The products on this list include Ambenyl (codeine/bromodiphenhydramine), Duratuss HD (hydrocodone/dextromethorphan), Robitussin AC (codeine/guaifenesin), and many more.


Avoid using this type of medication in recovery as they can lead to sedation and coma or death with higher doses. The products on this list include Amytal (amobarbital), Barbita (phenobarbital), Nembutal (pentobarbital), and many others.


These mood-altering drugs can affect recovery by producing symptoms of sedation, dizziness, and confusion, while lowering doses suddenly can result in seizures, coma, or death. The products on this list include Ativan (lorazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), and many others. 


Avoid these substances during recovery as they can lead to memory issues, hallucinations, and psychosis. The products on this list include Cannabis (grass, green marijuana, pot, weed), Ketamine (special K), LSD (acid, blotter, paper, sunshine, window pane), MDMA (E, eckies, ecstasy, love drug, X, XTC), and more. 


Use of inhalants can cause sedation, organ damage, coma, and death. Products on this list include aerosols (hair sprays, deodorants), gases (ether, chloroform, nitrous oxide, butane lighters, propane tanks, whipped cream dispensers), nail polish remover (acetone), and more. 


Avoid using opioids in recovery as they have a high potential for substance abuse along with other health risks. The products on this list include Demerol (meperidine), OxyContin (oxycodone), Percocet (oxycodone/acetaminophen)


This opioid class of drugs can lead to physical and psychological dependence if used in high quantities or over long periods of time. The active ingredient related to opioids, Diphenoxylate, slows down the movement of the intestines to help stop diarrhea. Products on this list include Lomotil (atropine/diphenoxylate) and Motofen (atropine/difenoxin). 


GHB (G, gamma-hydroxybutyrate, everclear) is part of a class of drugs that can lead to confusion, hallucinations, psychosis, and many more symptoms, some life-threatening.


These types of drugs also have a potential for abuse and should be avoided during recovery. The product list includes Ambien (zolpidem), Lunesta (eszopiclone), Soma (carisoprodol), and others. 


Avoid using stimulants in recovery as they can lead to physical and psychological addiction, memory and learning issues, altered sensory experiences, and diminished problem-solving ability. The product list includes Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine), Methamphetamine (crank, crystal meth, glass, ice, speed), Ritalin (methylphenidate), and more. 

 Medications Safe to Take in Recovery 

After seeing the list above, you’re probably asking, “What medications can I take in recovery?” You can keep a supply of your preferred OTC pain reliever, whether it’s ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol). As you’re treating minor aches and pains, these products are safe.  

In some cases, for instance, after major surgery, you may be prescribed stronger narcotics. Talk about your recovery with your doctor and reach out to your recovery supports to let them know that you’re taking these medications. It’s might be helpful to have someone else manage how these meds are stored and how they are given to you. Unlimited access may make taking these stronger medications appealing and could lead to relapse. 

If you no longer need certain medications while you’re in recovery, especially more potent and potentially addictive ones, there is no need to hold onto them. The FDA has a flush list of dangerous medications that should be disposed of due to their potential for misuse. Pharmacies will also accept these drugs and dispose of them safely. 

Other drugs may be taken safely if approved by your addiction specialist team or your physician. Some of these drugs are addiction treatments that may be administered to prevent relapse. A healthcare professional should monitor the use of these types of medications. Cold and cough medicines, decongestants, nasal sprays, muscle relaxants, and sleep aids can be safe if use is monitored, use remains short-term, and caution is always exercised.   

Medications for asthma can be used regularly in recovery as they’re vital. Gastrointestinal medications may be necessary to treat nausea, vomiting, and constipation and should be used for a short period of time only. Medications for vertigo and motion sickness can be used as needed, but keep in mind they do affect the central nervous system and can produce dizziness, drowsiness, or blurred vision. 



Origins Recovery & Counseling is a program in Dallas, Texas, made available by a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We provide a comprehensive diagnostic assessment and evaluation, as well as renowned clinical care for addiction. We have the compassion and professional expertise needed to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 866-671-4124.

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