Patients’ Honesty First Step in Getting Needed Help
Patients sitting in a doctor’s office feel more secure talking about topics they may not discuss elsewhere – including alcohol and drug usage, according to Doug Moard, MD, a family medicine doctor at ThedaCare Physicians-Darboy.
“People feel more free to talk about what they are worried about, including their worries about how much they are drinking,” Dr. Moard said. “The doctor’s office is the place to be open.”
Family medicine physicians like Dr. Moard are on the front lines helping patients with drug or alcohol problems. They can answer questions and make referrals to another professional who can identify whether the patient has a problem and put together a plan to help him or her fight the addiction. September is National Recovery Month.
“I always ask patients with high blood pressure about their drinking habits since alcohol definitely plays a role in that,” he said. “A few beers on Friday nights while enjoying a traditional Friday fish fry will definitely send it upwards. Some patients come out and say they are drinking too much while others try to gloss it over.”
Drinking is considered the cultural norm in Wisconsin so many people think those four beers on Friday plus a few more each on Saturday and Sunday during the football games are no big deal, Dr. Moard said. “Patients do not understand the health problems that are created by their drinking habits,” he said. “My goal is to help them understand that and if they have trouble changing their habits, get them help to make the changes they need.”
Dr. Moard said undiagnosed mental health issues also play a role in people’s drinking habits. “People self-medicate with alcohol, for example, if they have anxiety. A couple of drinks makes them feel better at the time, but the next day they will feel worse,” he said. “You cannot address the alcohol problem without addressing the mental health issue.”
If patients are on medication for a mental health issue and do not tell their doctor about their drinking habits, Dr. Moard said the problems get worse. “You need to be honest with your doctor about your alcohol or other drug usage or else they may have a bad interaction with their medication” he said.
In addition to alcohol, marijuana is another drug people use without many second thoughts, Dr. Moard said. “Patients think there is really no harm in smoking pot. They view it like a cigarette, but they’re more relaxed,” he said. “But marijuana can create some unexpected behaviors, such as paranoia. The person using doesn’t see that.”
Dr. Moard said patients should not be embarrassed to discuss their drug or alcohol usage with their doctors. “I am here to help them, not judge,” he said. “If I do not know the complete story about your health, I cannot help you achieve your best possible health. I work with patients to get them the help they need and get on the road to recovery.”
For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 32 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service. For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.