The irony is never lost on me when I am engaged in a conversation with a person in recovery who, between deep puffs of a cigarette or long sips of their sugar-filled cup of coffee, believes that the use of medications such as Methadone, Suboxone or Vivitrol excludes a person from being able to identify as being in recovery. If you’re smoking a pack of cigarettes a day or consuming caffeine like it’s your day job but claiming that a person using prescribed medication as part of their treatment for substance use disorder “isn’t clean”, your stance is problematic at best, hypocritical at worst.
Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants. They are both addictive, mind and mood-altering substances. In fact, smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in this country. So to be using these drugs while stigmatizing, ostracizing and alienating individuals who are utilizing prescribed, evidence-based medication as part of their recovery journey is both foolish and harmful.
There are many pathways to recovery and many definitions of what that means for a given individual. While for some, certain medications may have been misused in the past or the use of them is not a strategy we would choose for ourselves, that does not mean we should impose our beliefs on others. And while for some, choosing to use the most harmful drug in the United States is not something we believe excludes us from identifying as “clean” or in recovery, we all ought to allow each and every individual to identify for themselves what recovery means for them. With drug overdoses being the number one accidental cause of death in this country, the time is now to be more inclusive and welcoming than ever.