Daily Archives: 10/09/2014

Why was I never honest with my GP about how much alcohol I drank?

I had been planning to write this post months ago and have only just got round to it, plus I was prompted and reminded when reading this article in the Telegraph and in particular this paragraph:

I am amused to note that I claim to consume an average of 14 units of alcohol a week, a figure I had offered up because I knew damn well it was in line with the recommended upper limit for booze-inclined ladies who don’t want to think of themselves as having a Bit Of A Problem. I can remember the chic French GP asking me the same question at roughly the same time, and saying, “It’s curious how many women drink precisely 14 units of alcohol a week. It’s almost as if we’re trying to convince ourselves,” before laughing.

This both struck a nerve and jolted my memory as I too had done this with my GP.  This was my tack in the later years of my drinking when I knew I was consuming well over the Govt recommended guidelines.  Earlier on in my drinking career, and when my drinking was not so problematic, I had used the tactic, well-known within the medical profession of doctors and nurses, of halving my consumption and sharing that number.  But the problem was because I sat on both sides of the consultation desk I both knew that this happened and knew that the professional would just double the number in their head and that would be their ‘unofficial’ assessment.  And I did this for both my drinking and smoking and for patients drinking and smoking.

Why is it we find it so hard to be truthful with the medical profession when their help is predicated on us being honest?  With drinking there is the concern that as parents we will be judged and our ability to parent called in to question.  As a healthcare professional, who currently works within the multi-agency setting,  I can assure you that all agencies primary focus is to work with you to resolve the issue that you have with alcohol and to support you and your family during this process.  The days of the perception of social workers as ‘kiddie snatchers’ is outdated and long gone.  For a start the only people who can remove a child and place them under an emergency protection order (EPO) within the UK is the Police or the NSPCC.  Yes any healthcare professional can make a referral to Social Care, but they have a duty to tell you they are doing so unless to do so would place the child/children concerned at greater risk.  All social care referrals have to be logged, followed up, and potentially investigated, but it is a process and parents are consulted as part of it.  If you go to your GP, request help and engage in the process of getting and using the help offered then there is no reason for them to refer to Social Care.

Other reasons for not being honest, in my case, was that I knew I would potentially get what I would perceive as a ‘lecture’ about my drinking and would know that it would be followed up and I would have to do something about it.  This tells more about the issues we have with the substance than it does about us as a person.  The World Health Organisation have since 1979, discouraged the use of “alcoholism” in medicine, preferring the category of “alcohol dependence syndrome”.  It is medically considered a disease, specifically an addictive illness.  But we also know that part of the disease is our denial of having a problem with it and our concerns about needing to stop if confronted.  But we know that in the UK the management plan is to offer an alcohol brief intervention (ABI) and that stopping completely is not expected – unless you are referred to specialist alcohol services who would be the one’s to recommend this.

So they would have been my fears had I been honest.  We owe it to ourselves to be honest with our GP about how much alcohol we drank or still drink otherwise they can not properly help us as they do not have all the accurate facts.  If you are reading this and wondering about seeing your doctor about your drinking please go and please be honest.  Your health might depend on it.  I have been honest since I stopped but then maybe that’s because it is easier to say something after the event.  And if you still are concerned about being  honest what concerns stopped you or are stopping you?

11 days to go