Doctors may know if you’re lying about the amount you drink

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When you visit your GP, you are likely asked a series of generic questions about your health and lifestyle at the beginning of your appointment. Do you currently have any medical conditions? Do you smoke? How much do you drink?

If you’ve ever lied and said that you drink alcohol less frequently or in smaller quantities than you really do, you’re not alone. But doing so can make it harder for your doctor to diagnose and treat medical conditions, and they may even be able to tell that you’re lying.

Many of the tests your doctor runs to help detect or diagnose conditions will also clue them in on the amount you’ve really been drinking.

Some tests for liver function can reveal high levels of enzymes that indicate high alcohol consumption. High numbers of triglycerides or high blood pressure in someone with no other risk factors can also indicate excessive drinking.

However, if you have a trusting relationship with your doctor, they are unlikely to be suspicious that you are lying and are only concerned about your honestly if your health is in danger.

Dr Amber Tully told the Huffington Post: “I would never assume a patient is lying. I hope they don’t, and I don’t think a patient who drinks more than a drink a day would claim to not drink at all.”

Being transparent about your drinking habits is important as they can affect your overall health. Alcohol consumption can increase a patient’s risk of harmful conditions such as liver disease and cancer. Knowing as much about your health and these risk factors can help your doctor identify and treat such conditions.

Alcohol can have a bearing on a number of factors including your sleep, weight, migraines and the function of medications. “If someone is drinking excessively, it may be a reason for high blood pressure, high cholesterol or even migraines, dehydration or poor sleep,” said Dr Tully.

The cause of migraines, for example, may be much harder for your doctor to diagnose if they are unaware of your drinking habits. Excessive alcohol consumption has also been linked to seizures, violence, motor vehicle accidents and injuries.

Some medications can’t be taken alongside alcohol, so it’s best that your doctor has a clear understanding of your drinking habits before they prescribe you medications. Some medications, such as those that treat anxiety, sleeping meds, antifungal medications or antibiotics can’t be taken with alcohol at all. This may cause bad side-effects including dizziness, sleepiness and nausea. 

If you are seeking medical advice on weight loss or management, your doctor should also know how much you are drinking in order to have a clear picture of your calorie intake. “Most alcoholic beverages have at least 100 calories a drink. It’s the little things. Your doctor is there to pick up on them,” said Dr. Tully.

Not only is it important to be honest about your own relationship with alcohol, it is also important to be honest about your family history. “It is imperative to identify risk factors in a patient that can be harmful to their health. Alcohol use may raise the risk of issues, including cancers and liver disease,” said Dr Todd Sontag.

If you don’t feel that you can be completely honest and open with your doctor, they’re not the right doctor for you. “Patients need to understand that they can trust their physician, and anything they say to them is in complete confidentiality,” said Dr Sontag.

“We’re here to help you, not judge you, and it’s a team effort,” said Dr. Tully. “I think patients assume we’ll think less of them if they’re fully honest, but that’s not true at all.”

If you lie to your doctor you are doing yourself a disservice, she said.

Do you feel that you can be completely open with your GP? Have you ever lied about your health or lifestyle to a medical professional?

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Written by Liv Gardiner


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