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So apparently it’s Alcohol Awareness Month. So here we have a little article for those of us in the health care field, but that aren’t necessarily experts in psychiatry. What I gleaned from this article is what to look for in someone who may be an “unhealthy alcohol user”– a woman or person over 65 that drinks more than 7 standard drinks a week, or a man under 65 that drinks more than 14 standard drinks a week. I’m pretty sure that would fit 50% of the people I knew in college and still applies to a few folk. According to the article, that fits around 24-36% of inpatient hospital admissions.
If that is so, those of us who would come into contact with these people need to know what to look for so, they can be appropriately cared for. The clinical presentation of someone in withdrawal: “… anger, uncooperative behavior, agitation, tremor, change of mental status, irritable or hostile affect, interpersonal problems with the staff, or intentional or unintentional self-injury or suicide attempts. Other common presentations of AUDs may include comorbid personality disorders, alcoholic hallucinosis, and cognitive disorders, including those caused by poor nutritional states such as Wernicke’s encephalopathy, an acute, life-threatening, and yet frequently misdiagnosed condition, and Korsakoff syndrome, which typically presents with anterograde amnesia.”
Now what is appropriate care? From personal and professional experience and this article seems to agree with me, this population is not likely to listen to anyone regarding their problem, not friends, not family, not professionals. Basically, they need to be allowed to hit rock bottom and then they’ll be open to treatment. So perhaps the best thing we can do in the inpatient setting is to provide information on treatment options to the family if they are interested. So when their loved one hits their bottom and is seeking out help, the people they will turn to first–family– will be armed with the knowledge of where to find professionals in this area of care.