Because some medicines—such as sleeping pills, pain medications, or mental health medications—have a reputation for causing dependency or addiction, it’s understandable that you may feel nervous if they’ve been prescribed to you.
Remember: “Your doctor will always take into account the benefit versus risk when prescribing a medication,” says Preeti Parikh, MD, chief medical editor at HealthiNation and pediatrician at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Still, it’s important that you feel OK about the medication you’re taking.
The best way to ease your worries about becoming addicted or dependent on a medication is to have an open conversation with your doctor about your concerns. Here are some important things to cover with your doctor:
TIP #1: Understand the risk of dependency.
Talk to your doctor about the risk of dependency or addiction for the particular medication you’re taking. Understanding the risk, and what you can do to lower that risk, can help you feel less worried about taking your medicine.
TIP #2: Ask your doctor about the timeframe for concern.
It’s also important to talk to your doctor about when you should be concerned about becoming addicted or dependent on the medication you’re taking. Some medications will come with a recommended maximum duration of time to take it safely; exceeding that timeframe increases the risk for dependency.
Write this information down or mark it on a calendar so you know when to follow up with your doctor.
TIP #3: Learn what symptoms to look out for.
“If you’re on a medicine that is at high risk of dependency and addiction, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms,” says Dr. Parikh. Being aware of common dependency or addiction symptoms can help you, and your loved ones, know when it’s time to get help. Here are some things to look out for:
Addiction can occur without being dependent on drugs. Addiction may involve:
Using drugs despite the consequences
Being unable to stop using drugs
Or neglecting social and work obligations because of drug use.
It’s also possible to be dependent on drugs without being addicted. Dependence can be a bodily response to a substance. This may occur if you rely on medications to control a chronic medical condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Dependency symptoms may involve:
Some or all the symptoms of addiction
Development of a high tolerance for the substance as your body adapts to the drug, leading to a desire for larger or more frequent doses
Or physical symptoms of withdrawal when you attempt to stop using the drug.
Ask your doctor about the specific symptoms you may experience from your medication.
TIP #4: Talk to your doctor about medication adjustments.
If you’re still concerned about the risk of becoming dependent or addicted to your medicine, you can talk to your doctor about starting on a lower dose, says Dr. Parikh. You can also ask your doctor if there’s an alternative medication that may have less risk.
“Remember you, your pharmacist, and your doctor are a team, so it’s important to ask questions and feel comfortable about the medicine that you’re taking,” says Dr. Parikh.