Should I Be Honest With My Physician About Drug Use?

Most of us have a few guilty pleasures that we hide away from the world, away from even the watchful eyes of friends and family members.  But depending on the nature of that guilty pleasure, doing so might not be such a good idea.  And this is especially true if it is a guilty pleasure that jeopardizes one’s health, a drug or alcohol problem being two prime examples.

For those not already aware, nearly 21 million people in the U.S. have at least one addiction, and the vast majority are doing whatever it takes to keep it a secret.  But it all comes out in the wash when they suffer an overdose or another medical emergency requiring hospitalization.  Of course, not everyone is so fortunate. After all, some overdoses can prove fatal.  For these reasons, individuals who have a substance abuse problem and are in the care of a licensed physician should inform them of such.

Why You Should Be Honest With Your Physician About Your Alcohol Use

Except for cases in which individuals are likely to harm themselves or others, physicians will not disclose to anyone that their patient has a drug or alcohol problem.  That said, in addition to reducing overdose and hospitalization risks, there are many more reasons why you should tell your physician about your struggles with substance abuse.  Starting with alcohol, not disclosing to your doctor that you engage in binge drinking or have a full-on alcohol use disorder (AUD) can put you on the receiving end of adverse interactions with certain prescription drugs.

Additionally, many commonly prescribed medications can cause drowsiness when consumed with alcohol, which, in turn, can make driving or operating heavy machinery exceedingly dangerous.  But it does not end there as alcohol can negatively affect sleep, setting the stage for even more health problems down the line.  Multiple studies have found that consuming alcohol interferes with the quality and duration associated with each of the five stages of sleep.  For reference, these stages include wake, relaxed wakefulness, light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep.  When this happens, it is not uncommon for people to struggle with hypersomnia.  Further, combining alcohol with Adderall, Ritalin, and other amphetamines can increase the risk of alcohol poisoning.

How Doctors Can Tell you have an Alcohol Problem Whether You Tell Them or Not

While it is in your best interest to tell your physician that you have a drinking problem, sometimes they can reach that conclusion without you uttering a word about it.  And this is because heavy drinking interferes with triglyceride, enzyme, and blood pressure levels in the body, all of which are reviewed during a routine physical exam.

Why You Should Be Honest With Your Physician About Your Illicit Drug Use

Having detailed a few of the consequences that come with not telling your physician about your struggles with alcohol, let’s switch gears and discuss the importance of telling them about a drug problem if you, indeed, have one.  According to most toxicologists, illicit substances can significantly alter the effectiveness of prescription-based medications.  In some cases, the prescribed drug is rendered entirely ineffective.  Other times, the combination of prescription-based and street-level drugs can have grave consequences.  And this assertion is shared around the world.

In a study published by the Government of South Australia, researchers noted that combining prescription drugs with over-the-counter drugs, alcohol, and street-level drugs can be unpredictable and may even be life-threatening.  For instance, combining heroin, a street-level opioid, with a prescription-based amphetamine forces the body to use more oxygen while simultaneously reducing its overall breathing rate. In a separate study, researchers also found that antibiotics are less effective when someone is abusing cocaine.  And this is because cocaine negatively affects the immune system.

How Being Open With Your Doctor About a Drug or Alcohol Problem Can Lead To Addiction Recovery

Along with reducing the risk of dangerous drug-to-drug interactions and overdoses that require hospitalization or that might prove fatal, telling a physician your struggles with drugs or alcohol can lead to addiction recovery.  For instance, many physicians are more than happy to arrange referrals with psychiatrists or psychologists who specialize in addiction recovery for their patients.  What’s more, many will prescribe medications to help ease some of the withdrawal symptoms commonly associated with trying to quit drugs or alcohol.  Lastly, many will arrange for their patients to attend Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or similar support groups, which allows them to get the help they need to achieve long-term sobriety.

Bottom Line

Indeed, there are plenty of reasons to tell your physician you have a problem with drugs or alcohol. And some of them could very well save your life.  To learn more about any of the information detailed in this article, consider speaking with one of our knowledgeable and compassionate representatives today at 302-842-2390.

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