From information about their sexual history to feelings of stress and depression, people keep many secrets from their primary care doctors. Unfortunately, lack of disclosure can interfere with a physician’s ability to provide optimal care for patients. One common — and detrimental — patient omission is substance use and substance use disorders. Here’s a closer look at why sharing this information is an important health imperative.
Substance Use and Health
Even patients who don’t suffer from a substance use disorder aren’t inclined to admit how much they drink or use drugs to their doctors. An example shared by WebMD.com is that just six percent of people who drink mention doing so to their doctors. This can be problematic, however. “We fool ourselves into thinking that an unhealthy behavior is OK when we’re in control of it and it’s done in a manner that is socially acceptable.”
It’s not surprising that when drugs and alcohol are used to excess or in a manner that’s not socially acceptable, that patients are even less likely to tell their doctors. Unfortunately, this can stand directly in the way of their health and wellness. It can also stand in the way of something else: recovery and sober life.
The Honesty Imperative
Drugs and excess alcohol consumption aren’t good for the body. Because of this, discussing past and current habits with your primary care doctor is important. Dr. Marc Leavey told WebMD.com, “Maybe that brief fling with drugs in college really is the reason for elevated liver enzymes. Your doctor may not even begin to suspect [it’s due to] lingering hepatitis.” Without prompt and proper diagnosis and treatment, the issue may worsen.
Furthermore, if you’ve struggled with substance use or addiction in the past, this can also increase your vulnerability to using again in the future. If you need a narcotic drug for pain relief or another problem, your doctor can take your past history into account.
And this is just one example. If your doctor knows you drink or use drugs, they can proactively check for a host of medical issues — whether or not you’ve got an addiction or are taking legal or illegal drugs.
If you think you may have a substance use problem, meanwhile, your doctor can offer invaluable insights and guidance into treatment options and services that will best suit your situation. They can also provide any necessary referrals.
Worried that disclosing any illegal substance use issues will lead to trouble with the law? Not only is your health more important, but strict doctor-patient confidentiality laws exist which are designed to keep your information protected. In fact, in the majority of states, physicians can only break your confidence if they deem you to be an imminent danger to yourself or someone else. This confidentiality imperative dates back to the Hippocratic Oath and endures today.
Doctors are highly trained medical experts with important jobs to do, but they are not mind readers. The most successful doctor-patient relationships rely on open lines of communication, trust, and honesty. Ultimately, the more forthcoming you are, the more effective your doctor will be in helping you achieve your health and wellness goals.
Speaking of health and wellness goals, if you suspect that you or someone you love may suffer from substance use disorder, finding the right addiction treatment can mean the difference between ongoing addiction and a substance-free life. Enter Harris House. A leading St. Louis drug rehab center for 50 years, our trained team is at the ready to partner with you on your journey to recovery. Call us today to learn about admissions.