Dr. David B. Adams – Psychological Blog

Psychology of Illness, Pain, Anxiety and Depression

Occult Alcoholism?

An abusive attitude in a patient on narcotic pain killers may not be arising solely from the narcotic. The abuse may not be of the hydrocodone per se but of the combination of hydrocodone and alcohol. Alcohol can potentiate not only the effects of hydrocodone but also its mood-related side effects such as irritability.

Staying home all day, inactive, mobile only when physical therapy or monthly doctor visits are required…it is easy to fall into the habit of drinking beer and watching television. This feeds upon itself.

The first order of business would be to differentiate between what is pain…what is depression…and what is alcohol abuse for this type of patient. Although direct questioning is usually met with denial, there are ways of obtaining the data regarding what factors are causing the mood changes.

Combine this with a deteriorating financial picture and appreciable tension in the household. Note that some of these patients are at home either with the children or when the children come home from school. They feel burdened by this added responsibility but more importantly that their adult role is impugned by being a non-working adult.

Then there is the question of “why are they abusing any substance?” Most often this is a futile attempt on the part of the patient to deal with the feelings of helplessness and mounting fear of the future.

Do they need to “talk about this?” Sometimes. Will adding an antidepressant to this picture be helpful. Usually not. Alcohol and antidepressants can result in severe consequences.

It is like all of these situations, first you need to find out “why” and then determine “how.”

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