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Drinks and blues a cocktail of bad news

He’s hitting the bottle and taking his depression out on fearful wife

QUESTION:

My husband is 68. He has been retired for 12 years. He is an intellectual person with high abilities.

Diagnosed with clinical depression in 2000, he is on high dose medication and drinks alcohol nearly every day of the week. On his alcohol-free days he has a dose of whiskey.

When he has more than a bottle of wine he is “very black” and verbally abusive, blaming me for everything he sees isn’t good about his life.

I try to estimate how much he’s had when I get home from work, so I can keep myself emotionally safe.

I am at retirement age and would love to stop working but I can’t handle the mood swings and negativity. I can’t talk to my husband’s GP because this would make my husband more paranoid.

When my husband was a low-level drinker he was a lovely person. Alcohol on top of the depression is ruining our lives.

ANSWER: 

Drinking can counteract the benefits of antidepressant medication, making symptoms more difficult to treat. Alcohol may seem to improve mood in the short term, but its overall effect increases symptoms of depression and anxiety. Side effects may be worse if other medication is also taken. Your husband is placing his health at risk by mixing his excessive alcohol intake with “high dose” anti-depressant medication. Although your letter does not specify the exact type of medication most anti-depressants contain warnings not to mix them with alcohol.

The fact he drinks alcohol even on so-called “alcohol-free” days is indicative of alcoholism and you are right to be concerned. However trying to change his behaviour by yourself is unlikely to be successful in the circumstances you describe. It is essential you both receive some professional support.

In view of your concerns for your emotional safety the panel suggests you consult your GP on your own behalf to request a referral to a clinical psychologist. In addition you should mention the reasons for your problem. GPs are bound by patient confidentiality and you have good reasons for requesting this. However your GP can use the information you provide to explore your husband’s behaviour at their next appointment.

Verbal abuse is a form of domestic violence. The panel encourages you to take your safety seriously and seek professional support for yourself.

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