What are Addictions?

The American Psychological Association defines Addiction as a condition in which the body must have a drug to avoid physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Addiction's first stage is dependence, during which the search for a drug dominates an individual's life. An addict eventually develops tolerance, which forces the person to consume larger and larger doses of the drug to get the same effect. (1)

There are many resources an addict or recovering addict may use. Types of psychotherapy that have been found helpful by the American Psychological Association include cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and contingency management (1). Research also shows that Mindfulness Meditation can reduce relapse in drug users, Relapse in addicts is seen about 40-60% of people within one year of ending treatment. This is where mindfulness programs can help. Mindfulness helps people become more aware of their lives and surroundings and can help recognize cravings and prevent them more often (3).

Safe Drug Use for the Recovering Addict or Alcoholic (Ridgeview Institute 2)

It is very important to check all the medication you are taking, especially over the counter (OCT) medication that may contain ingredients to cause a relapse. Sometimes even physicians may prescribe medication that may contain something that can cause a relapse, if they are not familiar with addiction. It is also important to note that you should use extreme caution when taking OTC medication given by a friend or someone else, who may not be aware of the contents of the medication.

Medication to be cautious of taking if you are a recovering addict or alcoholic can include over the counter medication (OTC), mouthwash, cold/allergy medication, sleep medication, attention vitamins and herbal supplements.

OTC Medication:

  • Read Labels!
  • Stay away from medication containing alcohol (e.g. liquid cough medicine or liquid cold medication, such as Nyquil. - cough syrup that can be used is Tussin DM is available alcohol-free)
  • "Use caution with laxatives and nasal sprays. Overuse of either of these products can cause physical dependence on them. They should be for occasional use only."


  • Alcoholics commonly abuse mouthwash because many of these products contain alcohol. Look for alcohol-free mouthwash alternatives.

Cold/Allergy Medication:

  • This is another big product that is abused. Only take cold/allergy medicine when absolutely necessary.
  • Only use non-drowsy and take the minimum amount directed.

Sleep Medicine:

  • You should not take over the counter sleep medicine. This should be taken only if it was proscribed to you by a psychiatrist/addictionologist. Even Benadryl is a danger if not approved.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD):

  • Very few medications for ADD have been approved. Make sure to get approval by a psychiatrist/addictionologist before taking any ADD meds.

Pain Medicine:

  • Over the counter pain medication that is okay to use include: Tylenol, ibprofen (Mottrin, Advil), naproxy (Aleve).
  • Sometimes narcotics are needed after a surgery or severe injury. When this is necessary be sure to have someone other than the recovering person handle the medication. Only use as directed and make sure your psychiatrist/addictionologist knows the situation.

Prescribed Medicine:

  • All physicians need to be aware of person's addictions. Medication charts need to be up to date and accurate. If there is any confusion the physician needs to be aware.
  • Antidepressants and mood stabilizers are generally okay to use for recovery.

Vitamins and herbal supplements:

  • Vitamins are safe and encouraged
  • Herbal supplements should be used cautiously, but are generally fine. Where as weight loss, appetite suppressants, and sleep or mood supplements like Valerian and Kava should be avoided.
  • Energy drinks should be avoided.

The following drug categories are all considered safe by Ridgeview Institute:

  • Asthma meds
  • Topical creams
  • Hermorrhoid products
  • Antibiotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Antifungal products
  • Dermatological products
  • Eye and ear products
  • Mouth (including toothache products) and throat products
  • Fever blister products
  • Sunscreens
  • Medications prescribed to treat medical conditions
  • Vitamins and iron supplements


  1. 1. APA (online). < https://www.apa.org/topics/addiction/index.aspx >. April 28, 2014
  2. Ridgeview Institute (article online). <http//www.ridgeviewinstitute.com/Support%20Documents/safedruguseList.pdf >. May 20, 2014
  3. Fox News (online). <http://www.foxnews.com/heath/2014/03/20/mindfulness-meditation-may-reduce-drug-user-relapse/ >. May 20, 2014

If you are interested in making an appointment with one of our therapists, or if you have further questions, please contact one of our Intake Coordinators at:

770.953.0080 Ext. 302