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Ask Doctor Blake Your Own Question

Doctor Blake
Doctor Blake, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 146
Experience:  Ph.D., Ed.S., NCSP Clinical Psychologist; 15+ years of experience; dual licensure
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I think my mum is an alcoholic, she lives on her own and is

Customer Question

I think my mum is an alcoholic, she lives on her own and is on high dose of depression medication. I have spoken alot about her drinking, but she says its cas she is stressed or its her choice. But she seems to have more 'accidents' than is normal, she shakes really badly, is so extremely highly strung, her face is very puffy. She has drunk a 4L wine cask in under 3 days, she has said that she had friends over who also drank, but still it seems excessive, she doesn't eat healthy. A doctor at the hospital has also said she needs to stop drinking, after we went to the hospital because she had chest pains, she told the doctor that it was her life. My aunties also have issues so within the family its seems normal. I dont know what to do or who i can contact (melbourne Australia).
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Doctor Blake replied 3 years ago.

Doctor Blake :

Good morning and welcome to JA.

Doctor Blake :

Please understand that it is both unethical and inappropriate to diagnose over the internet... so I by providing answers/advice today does not mean I can confirm a diagnosis of Alcohol Dependence (or Alcoholism). That can only be done, in person, with a qualified medical or mental health professional.

Doctor Blake :

All this being said, I believe you have reason to be concerned. Your mother's behavior (including accidents), her physical health, and (more importantly) her attitude toward this issue... it's all very concerning.

Doctor Blake :

I would begin your own personal research by learning more about Alcoholics Anonymous. (While I typically provide the link for the US-AA central office, I think this link may be more helpful for you: http://www.aa.org.au/findameeting/

Doctor Blake :

While it is possible that you mother may respond to medications to reduce her cravings for alcohol (or medications that make her sick if she drinks), these medications have truly not been found to be effective with the "far gone." Patients simply stop taking their medications.

Doctor Blake :

Therapy has not been found to be effective in the treatment of alcoholism... unless it's therapy provided by a licensed Chemical Dependence Counselor.

Doctor Blake :

What may be more concerning, and a more immediate need for you to consider: if you mother is experiencing physical symptoms as a result of her drinking behavior, she has moved beyond psychological/emotional dependence to physical dependence. This will require physical detoxification from alcohol if she is expected to successfully stop drinking.

Doctor Blake :

You should understand that, of all the drugs available, detoxing from alcohol can be the most potentially dangerous medically... so I would STRONGLY recommend you consider placing mom in a detoxification center where she can be medically monitored and treated as she gets the alcohol out of her system.

Doctor Blake :

The physical stress of stopping drinking suddenly can result in some pretty serious medical complications, so detox is highly recommended, if this is where your mom is currently at in her disease.

Doctor Blake :

Finally, I hate to say these words - because family members dread hearing them, you mom is ultimately correct. It *is* her life... and if she chooses to spend her last days drinking herself to death, there really is NOTHING you can do. You could take her to the Emergency Room when she passes out, you could have her competence evaluated, etc... but ultimately, if you mom has become addicted to alcohol and is unable/unwilling to seek treatment... the best you can do is take care of yourself and your immediate family.

Doctor Blake :

Alanon is the support group for wives, children, parents, family & friends of alcoholics. Again, I usually provide the US link for Alanon... so I'm sorry if this isn't helpful... but it's what I found: http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/australia/

Customer:

Do you think that puffy face, shaking, anxiety and depression are all symptoms. Its so hard to relate the falls and being sick to alcohol, it just feels like she is falling apart she always seems injured or sick. The issue I face it excessive alcohol usage has been 'normal' in the family, my mum doesn't want to admit there is an issue, surely there is some steps that can be taken a family intervention obviously would not work in this situation.

Doctor Blake :

Puffy face, shaking, anxiety, depression - yes those are all symptoms of alcohol dependence and/or detoxing. Of course, they are also symptoms of other possible medical causes... but when you hear hoofbeats... it's probably a horse, not likely a zebra coming around the corner.

Doctor Blake :

And since you know this "stable" pretty well, alcohol makes sense. (The accidents, too.)

Doctor Blake :

The steps I would take: find a local AA meeting and go yourself.

Doctor Blake :

Buy some of the literature, speak to some of the women there, learn what you can.

Doctor Blake :

See if your mom would go with you to another meeting... or see if one of the women there would be willing to speak to you mom. (This is called "doing a 12th step call" on your mother.)

Doctor Blake :

If mom is unwilling/unable to at least attend a meeting, you have a sense of where things stand.

Doctor Blake :

If you are genuinely concerned about her health, she may require hospitalization to manage her coming off the alcohol. Remember, detox can be dangerous!

Customer:

How can detox be dangerous?

Doctor Blake :

Finally... go YOURSELF to an Alanon meeting. Bring a brother or sister or friend. You'll need support in the months ahead.

Doctor Blake :

detox can lead to extremely high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, seizures. These are the hard-core side-effects of detoxing. The more minor ones include gastrointestinal distress, vomiting, severe headaches, anxiety, depression... just imagine the worst hangover you've ever had... only it lasts several days.

Doctor Blake :

You can see why detoxing on your own is rarely successful.

Customer:

My mum is already on high blood pressure, do you think that in this case she would need medical monitoring?

Doctor Blake :

Absolutely... and she may, in fact, be on blood pressure medication BECAUSE of long term alcohol abuse.

Doctor Blake :

I regret that our time is complete for the time being. I would be pleased to speak with you later, if that would be helpful. Please feel free to direct questions to me, or you can open questions to the expert panel as a whole. Also, you should receive an e-mail following the close of our discussion, so that you can link back to it, if you need to review any of the information provided.

Doctor Blake :

Ah, I see you have one last question. I'll wait.

Customer:

finally ..Should my mums long term doctor have picked something like this up, wouldn't she have an obligation to follow this up. It seems she hands out medication no questions asked

Doctor Blake :

A GP (General Practitioner) can adopt a number of philosophies when treating their patients... some are more intrusive than others... many are very hands-off. In all likelihood, the GP might have asked a few questions... but if you mom denied everything related to alcohol, few GPs are likely to follow-up.

Doctor Blake :

Does she have an OBLIGATION to follow-up? Probably not legally... unless your mom said, "doctor, I need help quitting alcohol" and the doctor ignored her. That would be negligence. Ethically, if all the signs were there, it would have been preferable if the GP had checked it all out, yes.

Doctor Blake, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 146
Experience: Ph.D., Ed.S., NCSP Clinical Psychologist; 15+ years of experience; dual licensure
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