Coming Clean About Drugs with Your Doctor


My brother was in a car crash about eight months ago and had a brain injury. He was driving drunk and had a history of alcohol and drug abuse. The problem now is he’s in a lot of pain and I don’t know whether it’s my place to tell his doctor that he has a drug problem. What should I do?


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So your brother had a prior problem with substances--alcohol and drugs, it sounds like--and has now had a brain injury and is in a lot of pain, and your question is, should I tell his doctor about his prior substance abuse problem? And this is definitely something to be a bit concerned about, that the use and misuse of pain medications, in particular, can be dangerous to an individual and even life-threatening at times. So it's not something to take lightly. I don't want to presume the relationship with your brother and how you--how you discuss this with him, but probably a good starting point is to mention to him that it's something you think he might want to share with his doctor. It's not that the prior substance abuse will mean that he won't get treatment for his pain, but his physician would take a different approach to treating the pain, knowing that, and particularly taking precautions that would help make sure that your brother doesn't get to a place where now he is abusing pain medications in addition to the other things he's facing. So, how far you go with pushing it? That's going to have to be your decision, but I think it's an important issue, and it's definitely something I would discuss with my brother in a similar situation.
Posted on BrainLine August 30, 2011.

About the author: John Corrigan, PhD

Dr. John Corrigan is a professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Ohio State University, and director of the Ohio Valley Center for Brain Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation. He is the project director for the Ohio Regional Traumatic Brain Injury Model System.

John Corrigan