Talking to Your Healthcare Provider About Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
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Talking to Your Healthcare Provider About Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

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You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor or healthcare provider about your personal risk factors and/or experience with alcohol. By talking openly and regularly with your healthcare provider, you can take an active role in your care.

General Tips for Gathering Information

Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your healthcare provider:

  • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
  • Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get, and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Provider

About Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

  • Do you think I have an alcohol abuse problem?
  • Have you helped patients with alcohol abuse problems?
  • Where can I get help for an alcohol abuse problem?
  • I’m concerned that I’ve done damage to my body as a result of alcohol abuse. Can I have a physical exam and some tests?

About Your Risk of Developing Complications of Alcohol Abuse

  • Would my health problem(s) have anything to do with abusing alcohol?
  • If I continue with my current drinking pattern, am I putting myself at risk for complications?

About Treatment Options

  • What medical and nonmedical treatments are available for alcohol abuse and alcoholism?
  • What are the benefits, risks, and side effects of medical treatments for alcohol abuse and alcoholism?
  • How do the treatments work and how long will they take?
  • Can you refer me to a group for people with alcohol abuse problems?
  • Can you refer me to a mental health professional who specializes in the treatment of alcohol abuse and alcoholism?

If you find a mental health professional who specializes in the treatment of alcohol abuse or alcoholism, ask the following questions:

  • What type of training and how much experience do you have in treating alcohol abuse and alcoholism?
  • What is your basic approach to treatment?
  • How long will treatments last?
  • How long and frequent are the treatment sessions?
  • Do you accept health insurance?
  • Do you have fee schedules and sliding scale fees to accommodate various financial circumstances?

About Lifestyle Changes

  • What changes can I make to reduce my use of alcohol?
  • Is there anything I can do to enhance my recovery?
  • Is there anything I can do to reverse any damage I may have done to my body as a result of abusing alcohol?

About Outlook

  • What are my chances of successful recovery?
  • What if I relapse?
  • What are my chances of reversing any damage I may have done to my body as a result of abusing alcohol?

References:

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Available at: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/.

National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://www.nih.gov/.

Ask Me 3. Partnership for Clear Health Communication website. Available at: http://www.askme3.org. Accessed April 15, 2007.

What is substance abuse treatment? A booklet for families. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. US Department of Health and Human Services website. Publication No. (SMA) 04-3955. Updated 2004. Available at: http://kap.samhsa.gov/products/brochures/pdfs/WhatIsTx.pdf. Accessed April 15, 2007.



Last reviewed April 2007 by Janet Greenhut, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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