Ask the Doctors: Sharing Information with Doctors Makes Care Easier | Various

Dear Doctors: How do I tell my doctor that I have a problem with alcohol? I am prescribed painkillers, which I do not abuse. However, my drinking has increased, especially since my mother passed away last fall. I want to talk about it, but I don’t know how, or even if I should.

Dear reader: We want to start by saying that it takes courage to recognize when you have a problem. Alcohol is a widely accepted part of adult life, making it easy to label potentially harmful behavior as mere social consumption. By acknowledging your concern about the changing role of alcohol in your own life, you have taken an important first step in regaining control and balance.

You’ve also opened the door to examining why it happened, which can be painful. It is naturally difficult to share this kind of personal information. But in addition to the impact that drug addiction can have on physical and mental health, the fact that you take painkillers makes this information important for your doctor.

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Alcohol can enhance the sedative properties of a range of prescription pain relievers. This can lead to unexpected or even dangerous results. It is important to be aware of any potential side effects that may arise from mixing alcohol with the medications you have been prescribed.

In our experience, binge drinking begins as a behavior, a numbing process used to cure an underlying pain or emotion. When a person understands what’s behind the behavior, whether it’s boredom, anger, disappointment, fear, anxiety or, as in your case, grief, they may begin to focus on healthier, more useful and more healing coping mechanisms. We believe you will be best served by approaching your doctor with honesty and clarity.

It will also come in handy if you have a goal in mind. It can be as simple as wanting your doctor to have this information as part of your medical history. Or maybe you would like to engage more and get help, information or a referral. Starting with “I just wanted you to know” or “I wonder if you can help me” sets the stage for the conversation you’re comfortable having at the time.

When a person’s alcohol consumption approaches binge drinking, which is currently defined as 15 or more drinks per week for men and eight or more drinks per week for women, we use what l is called the CAGE questionnaire. We ask if the person thinks they should “reduce” their drinking, if they are “annoyed” when someone questions their drinking, if drinking makes them feel “guilty” “And if she recently started the day with a drink as an ‘eye opener.’ A single “yes” answer to any of the questions indicates the need for further evaluation. Two or more affirmative answers indicate an increased risk of alcohol dependence.

While letting your doctor know about your alcohol struggle may seem daunting, it’s actually important information they have to help you maintain your good health and well-being. By sharing this information now, you may be preventing future pain and harm.

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