Be Wary of Your Personal Physician!
Once again this week we received a call from an individual who found himself in trouble because he had confided to his doctor’s assistant that he thought he might be drinking a bit too much since his retirement. The assistant wrote a note saying that the man was obviously drunk (he wasn’t, hadn’t had anything to drink) and his doctor demanded that he immediately check himself into a residential rehab program.
Appalled, the man demanded to know what was going on and was told he was drunk and needed to leave until he’d been through rehab and joined AA. He asked to take a breathalyzer test and was refused because the doctor “knew.”
Cutting to the chase, the man left, obtained copies of his file, and discovered he had been labeled an “alcoholic in total and dangerous denial.”
If you think this is far-fetched, let me assure you that we get these calls all the time and hear similar stories from clients as well.
There are several actually:
- Physicians receive virtually no training in alcohol abuse;
- They are as susceptible to AA/12 Step brain washing as anyone;
- Many are AA members themselves;
- It is nearly impossible to refute allegations;
- Once in your chart, it’s nearly impossible to get them erased;
- If you use insurance, the label will be public since insurance records aren’t confidential and are actively traded.
I could go on but the point is, be extremely careful about revealing your concerns. The risks are high and the benefits largely non-existent. Even if your physician is knowledgeable and empathic, they won’t know enough to actually help. You will have put yourself in jeopardy of being misdiagnosed, labeled, and sentenced to a life-long smear.
To make things just a bit worse, the same can be said for the vast majority of mental health professionals who are incapable of differentiating between the symptom – alcohol abuse – and the problem(s): anxiety, boredom, loneliness, etc.
And again, self-revelation can result in harmful demands (“Oh, you have to go to rehab/AA and fix your alcoholism before we can address your anxiety….”) since they have the situation exactly backwards. And, again, if you’re using insurance, your diagnostic billing code will be permanently broadcast.
The saddest part of all of this is that, most likely, you are an alcohol abuser as defined by the DSM-5, not an alcohol dependent “alcoholic.” And even if you are dependent you’re unlikely to be one of the 3% – 5% for whom AA “works.”
Small comfort as you are denied insurance, employment, credit, licensure, and/or security clearances on the basis of an erroneous labeling by someone unqualified to assess your alcohol use or misuse.
Be very, very careful.
Having raised the above nightmare, it seems reasonable to again address the issue of confidentiality – one that you should all be concerned about. And one where most of us hold a number of mistaken beliefs.
First, while your medical records may be confidential, insurance records are not. That means that any services or conditions covered by insurance are no longer private. Your physician enters a diagnostic code for reimbursement and the code identifies you as an “alcoholic” and, bingo, you are labeled. Permanently.
Second, groups are never confidential, whether AA meetings, group therapy, residential rehab or outpatient treatment. Other group members are not bound by confidentiality rules and, of course, the same insurance problems apply.
Third, non-licensed facility staff are not bound by confidentiality regulations. As with group participants, people talk.
Fourth, family and community members also talk, of course. And once painted by the alcoholic brush, the stain is hard to remove. Especially when any or many of these people have a vested interest in making and keeping you the “problem.”
All that said, we often note, correctly, that we provide the only confidential treatment program in the either the U.S. or Canada. No staff other than Dr. Barnes and myself. A private consultation with our physician which we pay for. A private pharmacy where Naltrexone can be obtained and the electronic prescription services (that feed into a national data bank, again, not confidential) circumvented.
Regarding Naltrexone, if you want to be further reassured, we can refer U. S. clients to a reputable Canadian pharmacy. Canadian and other international clients can receive their full 3-6 month supple while you are here.
Additionally, we do no groups, work with you and only others at your request, and we never refer you to AA or any other “support” group (see next week’s newsletter for what a real support group actually looks like).
To reinforce the point, we have successfully worked with clients whose spouses never knew they were here.
We have helped many clients avoid the stigma and false labeling virtually all rehab programs inflict.
We have even managed, in a few cases, to get false labels reversed – though it’s far easier to avoid the label in the first place.
So, what’s your choice? A demeaning and inaccurate label accompanied by ineffective “Steps” based treatment, or a truly private and effective research-based program that leads to an enhanced and empowered life?
That choice is merely a phone call away….