What the Dr said

As I said in my last post I’ve been back in school and during that time had a really interesting conversation with a GP.  We were discussing alcohol as a public health issue and she said that there was this saying in her experience that went something like this:

‘You only have a drink problem if you drink more than your GP or your MP’.

Now I had never heard this expression before but actually it makes perfect sense.  Your GP is your senior primary care health professional and your MP is your senior political representative.  Both influence and shape health and public health policy and legislature.  Now if they drink the same amount as you they are not going to perceive your drinking as a problem because to do so would cause them discomfort relating to their own drinking (or cognitive dissonance).  And therein lies the rub.

The GP asked me if I drank, and I shared that I had given up 6 months ago, to which she said ‘well you are probably in a better position to comment as you are unbiased’.  See if your GP or MP drinks like you then they have a positive bias towards alcohol and this creates a dichotomy for them.  How can they be impartial in their working lives towards the issue?  I responded that it could be argued that I now have a negative bias towards booze as I had stopped drinking (or that’s how some would choose to see it!).

The WHO stats I shared yesterday telegraph loud and clear that ‘Houston we have a problem’.  We need to have an honest open discussion about alcohol and it’s impact and yet this is complicated by the fact that so many professionals that should be unbiased are not.  So the issue gets tip-toed round or we stick our heads in the sand hoping that it will just go away.  Except it doesn’t and it isn’t.  The elephant in the room has passed out drunk and we just keep stepping over it ……

15 thoughts on “What the Dr said

  1. Yes, I’d heard that saying before. And I suppose it also gives those looking for ‘permission’ to continue with their unhealthy drinking habits to continue as they are. If the GP drinks so much, it must be ok.

    1. Indeed 🙂 Although how that then enables the govt to move alcohol as an issue from health to the home office suggests deliberate avoidance and undue influence by people with interests (& profits) outside of govt …. GRRR!

  2. I was diagnosed with clinical depression over 10yrs ago I told my Dr my concerns that this could be to do with my love of wine he laughed and just told me to choose a good bottle and here I am now still trying to break the habit

    1. Hi Mary and thanks for reading and commenting 🙂 If only professionals realised how damaging their responses to genuine questions can be 🙁

  3. I love that image of walking over a passed-out elephant. I’m picturing that here in my living room. In a room this size, it would not be ignorable- I guess you need a good rousing public space for the elephant to be able to walk around or ignore her, lol!

    Seriously, though, we docs could do a better job- as with kids, it’s hard to be believable when you say to patients: Do as I say, please, not as I do…

  4. Great Post! I shared with my doctor that I had a couple of drinks each evening and she was concerned. I told her I had been doing this for years and then I said; “Do you think I should go to AA?” Her response was, “Yeah, if you can’t quit!” I got a new doctor. That was 10 years ago, I should of listened.

    1. Hi Phoebe thanks for reading and commenting. Good to hear that you Dr took your disclosure seriously. Was the move of Dr and her advice related or just co-incidental?

      1. The move was definitely related.I shared her comments with my family and friends and everyone thought she was way off base. Deep inside I knew she was right, but I still could not bring myself to admitting it. I still have not disclosed my problem to anyone (outside the blogosphere) and though I have been AF for about 3 months, I find some excuse for why I am not drinking.

      2. Thanks for being so honest in your reply. I too have not really disclosed to many but to be fair so many of the people I know drink like I did that they don’t ask too much!! Congrats on the 3 months 🙂

  5. My friend G constantly references a time when his wife had a medical procedure and was told not to ‘drink heavily’ for a while. What’s heavily? She asked. “Well, you know. Two bottles would be heavily”, said the Dr, apparently.

    Not only is this, if true, completely ridiculous. But more tellingly, my friend took this further, and translated it as meaning “Less than two bottles is not problematic.

    The thing is that drinkers are already looking for excuses to continue drinking problematically. They (we) will take the snippets that reinforce their lack of a problem and ignore the huge swathes of text that tell them otherwise. So doctors and authority figures need to err on the side of very conservative moderation at the best of times. And it’s not always the best of times.

    1. Hi afteralcohol Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂 I agree that we are just looking for permission and any statement that supports our drinking will be acknowledged and clung on too. Not sure where you are in the world but here in the UK the Govt have recommended guidelines so they know the answer to the question of what is too much and they have protocols and templates for alcohol advice as part of their health screening process if the patient is honest about their consumption!

      1. Hello Australia 🙂 It’s interesting isn’t it – that even though the guidelines are clear professionals still don’t know how to answer a direct question with a helpful and non-misleading answer.

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