Starting a conversation about opioid dependence or substance abuse can be intimidating. You might worry about being judged. You might worry about facing legal repercussions. You might worry that you’ll be forced to stop cold turkey and suffer from painful withdrawal.
An experienced addiction medicine doctor understands what you’re going through. They are not interested in punishing you for your addiction. In fact, they know better than anyone that addiction is not a choice; it’s a disease. A complex illness that requires compassionate treatment and personalized care.
When you first reach out to a doctor about your substance abuse or opioid dependence, they will take the time to sit with you and have a conversation one-on-one.
Be Honest About Your History
The first step to building a relationship with your doctor is to share your history and how it led you to seek care. Your doctor understands that sharing the details can be difficult. However, the more you can share, the better they can work with you to create a plan to treat your addiction. You should be prepared to discuss these questions with your doctor:
- Describe when your substance abuse disorder started, what you use, how often, and how much.
- If you abuse prescription medication, have you ever taken them by a different route than by mouth, such as crushing tablets for snorting or injection?
- Have you ever tried to stop using before? Did you experience any withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting, chills, difficulty sleeping, or tremors if you have previous quit attempts?
- Have you ever used illicit drugs such as heroin?
- Why are you seeking treatment?
- What does a successful recovery look like for you?
Knowing what questions your doctor is likely to ask can help ease some of the discomfort you may experience when you first talk about your addiction. It’s ok if you don’t know the answer to every question. Your doctor understands that substance abuse can impact your ability to recall details. Just be as honest and specific as possible since any information you can provide can help inform your care.
Everything you share with your doctor is bound by doctor-patient confidentiality. Unless there is potential harm to yourself or others, your doctor will not report anything you discuss to the authorities. When you turn to an experienced addiction medicine doctor for treatment, they understand that you may not be proud of your past behavior. They will always treat you with compassion and integrity to help you achieve your goal of recovery.
Write Down Your Questions Beforehand
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when discussing your addiction. By preparing your questions beforehand, you’ll have a helpful guide handy to prevent you from forgetting anything important. When first seeking care for substance addiction, patients often ask:
- Do I need treatment?
- What kind of treatment works best for my addiction?
- Would medication-assisted treatment help me?
- Will I go through withdrawal?
- How long will I need treatment?
- What role does counseling play in my treatment?
Remember that no question you have deserves to go unanswered. The answers you receive provide the first glimpse into your path to recovery.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of information provided. Your doctor might give you printed resources for you to browse later. You should also feel comfortable taking notes. These resources can be invaluable in the future when you need to make decisions regarding your treatment. If you have a support system, they might want to read these materials as well.
Discuss Your Current Medical Conditions
You may think your doctor is only treating one health condition, but your complete health picture is vital for creating a successful recovery plan. You should be prepared to discuss your current medical conditions with your provider. This includes any past surgeries or operations as well as any planned procedures.
If you take prescription medications regularly, bring a list with you to your appointment. Discuss why you are taking each medication and how long you have been on that particular prescription. This can help your doctor better understand your health and predict potential challenges you may face during recovery.
Planning Your Path to Recovery
You and your doctor can work together to create a treatment plan that is tailored to your needs and goals. When your doctor asks you uncomfortable questions, remember they are only doing so to help you. Everything discussed with your doctor is confidential. No information will be shared unless you grant permission.
As you work with your doctor, know that you play an active role in your treatment plan. You know yourself better than your doctor. When your doctor suggests treatment options, think about how well that option would fit into your life. Offer your honest opinion on what challenges you may face with sticking with a particular treatment plan. This helps tailor your treatment so that you can experience the maximum benefit.
Your doctor is your partner on your path to recovery. Each one-on-one conversation brings you closer to your goal. While the conversations may be difficult at first, you will build trust and confidence that makes it easier with time.
Remember, substance abuse and addiction is a complex, long-term medical condition. Recovery can be a long journey with ups and downs. You can always turn to your doctor to get your questions answered, receive support, or modify your treatment plan. If you’ve been thinking about treatment or simply have a question, please do not hesitate to reach out. Our talented and compassionate team can help you on your journey to recovery.