Painkillers for Necessary Medical Procedures - What Should I Do?

Living in sobriety can be difficult at times, as those in recovery face challenges and obstacles which would never even occur to most “normal” people. One such dilemma surrounds undergoing necessary surgery as a person in recovery. These procedures often require the use of power sedatives for anesthesia purposes as well as a prescription for powerful painkillers immediately following the surgery. As a person living in recovery, how do you reconcile the need to maintain your sobriety with medically necessary prescriptions?

When it comes to anesthetics used during surgical procedures, you should not worry about this as a relapse or potentially triggering your substance abuse. These medications are administered under incredibly strict protocols and constant medical supervision, and are generally unavailable on both the legal and illicit drug market. This one-time dose of seditave, albeit powerful, poses little threat to your recovery given you will not be conscious to experience any potential euphoric effects.

As for a short-term painkiller prescription immediately following some sort of medical procedure, this is a more nuanced issue. While opiates are very effective at eliminating the exact kind of moderate to severe pain you may be experiencing post-operatively, the risk of unleashing your addiction is significant, especially if opiates were your drug of choice. If your level of pain is so great that you and your doctor feel the use of an opiate painkiller is necessary, you should absolutely hand over the prescription to a trusted individual who will dispense them to you as indicated by your doctor. As soon as you are capable of managing the pain without the prescription, you should cease using it and dispose of any remaining pills properly.

Life throws us curveballs all the time in sobriety. One example of the unpredictable nature of life your suddenly needing serious surgery involving anesthetic or post-operative painkillers. When faced with such a scenario, your instinct may be to stand strong in your recovery and refuse any narcotic medication for the procedure. While this is certainly the safest option for your sobriety, it may not be the best possible solution when all things are considered. If you have built a firm foundation in recovery and are surrounded by sober supports, you can proceed confidently with any medical procedure and accompanying doctor’s recommendations as long as you have a system of accountability in place!


Evolutions is a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center located in beautiful South Florida. Our holistic approach to addiction treatment centers around addressing and healing the underlying issues at the root of addiction, rather than merely medicating symptoms away.

Our treatment program includes individual and group-based therapy to help clients understand and manage their symptoms and emotions.

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, alcoholism, or any co-occurring disorders please call us at (833) 818-3031 or visit