We all know family members, friends and colleagues who deny their alcoholism. A recent New York Times article reports that they don’t tell their doctors either therefore doctors need to focus more on diagnosing alcoholism.
“Every family has a tortured soul in a closet whose door doesn’t quite close. The demons inside are all too visible to friends and family, neighbors and doormen, even the staff of the emergency room. To the outside world, though, not a hint of a problem displays, and that includes colleagues, clients and always, especially, the doctor.”
“There are some tools to trap the elusive user, but not nearly enough. The standard implements of the trade sometimes come through: A physical exam can turn up the needle user’s track marks or the alcoholic’s swollen salivary glands. Routine lab work occasionally yields clues, as can studiedly casual chat (“What are you up to this weekend?”). A variety of more pointed questions (“Do you ever need a drink to get going in the morning?”) have been scientifically validated to pick up many serious problems.”
“Doctors are often just not in the mood for a long, fraught investigation. They may feel too much empathy and respect for a patient who is clearly a pillar of the community. They may be up to their armpits in the patient’s other problems…predictably forgetting, as studies have demonstrated, that addiction can be the source of most of those problems.”
Click here To read full NYTs article “What Patients Don’t Tell Their Doctors” by Abigai Zuger, M.D.
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Jonathan M. Metsch, Dr.P.H., is Clinical Professor, Preventive Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; and Adjunct Professor, Baruch College ( C.U.N.Y.), Rutgers School of Public Health, and Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration.
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