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Is It Risky to be Dishonest with Your Doctor About Occasional Substance Use?

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Are you keeping your occasional substance use a secret from your doctor?  If so, you should know that being dishonest with him is putting your health at risk.  

Understandably, you don’t want to tell your doctor about the drugs or alcohol you consume. But, you rely on your primary care physician to provide effective health care.  If he is unaware of your substance use, he can’t make informed decisions about your treatment.  

Substance use, even occasional use, should be reported to your doctor.  Below are some reasons why your doctor needs to be informed.

Why People Hide Substance Use from Their Doctor

Substance UseEveryone has their own reasons for not being honest with their doctor about substance use.  Some of the most frequent excuses include:

  • Fear of not getting fair medical treatment.
  • Afraid of being reported to an authority.
  • Too ashamed and embarrassed about substance use.
  • Don’t want to be judged or stigmatized.
  • Dreading a lecture by the doctor.

By making these excuses, people place themselves at risk for significant health issues ranging from mild to potentially fatal.  For instance, the doctor may prescribe a medication based on inaccurate information.  The situation can lead to misdiagnosis, incorrect medications, and ineffective or dangerous results.

Risks of Combining Substance Use and Medication

How does substance use affect medications?  Each drug, whether legal or illicit, affects the body differently.  Combining these different substances can result in life-threatening side effects.  

The implications of combining substance abuse and medication can be extensive.  Here are a few examples of why it is important to be honest with your doctor about your substance use:

  • In the case of a heart attack in a cocaine user, standard heart treatments may worsen the situation.
  • Some drug interactions can make your medication weaker or stronger, or they can even cancel each other out. When this happens, ineffective treatment of your condition can lead to other health issues or worsening of the condition.  For example, mixing alcohol with CNS depressants, painkillers, or general anesthetics can cause respiratory depression and death. 
  • Withdrawal symptoms can sometimes seem like anxiety symptoms or panic attacks.  If you experience these symptoms and are treated for anxiety without disclosing your substance use, you may suffer fatal withdrawal symptoms.
  • If you misuse substances and suffer an overdose, it’s important to let your doctor know which substance you used.  Treatment for overdose varies depending on the drug involved.  Your life could be at risk if you are dishonest about the substance you used.

It may be easier to be honest about your substance use if you remember the following things.  

Being Honest With Your Doctor Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

First of all, try to think of your doctor as a scientist who is simply collecting data.  He needs the information to assess and treat your health issues effectively.  Being dishonest can cause life-threatening complications and can impact your physician’s integrity.  

Still not sure if you can be honest with your doctor?  Try to keep these considerations in mind on your next visit to his office:

  • Your physician is bound by doctor-patient confidentiality.  He can’t release your information without your permission.
  • You and your doctor are a team.  You both benefit if you work together for your health concerns.  
  • Your situation is not too difficult for your doctor to deal with.  He has treated cases like yours before.
  • Tests can reveal your substance use. Drug and alcohol use will likely be detected by blood tests even if you don’t disclose it.
  • Your doctor can be a resource for addiction treatment information.  He can make referrals to specialists to help determine the best course of treatment for your needs.

If you choose to keep substance use information from your doctor, you are wasting his time and yours.  Without the right data, he cannot provide the level of care you need and your health will suffer the consequences.  

Common Drug Combinations That Can be Dangerous

Substance UseIf you are combining substance use and medications, you should learn the risks involved.  Here are some of the most common dangerous drug combinations:

Alcohol with stimulants or depressants:  Alcohol is a depressant.  Combining alcohol with another depressant increases the risk of overdose.  Combining alcohol with stimulants gives the body mixed signals that can result in serious side effects. 

Mixing stimulants:  Stimulants are known as uppers because they increase the heart rate and blood pressure.  Using two or more stimulants such as cocaine, ecstasy, or meth can cause heart attack, stroke, liver damage, or brain injury.

Mixing depressants:  Depressants are known as downers because they slow down your bodily functions such as breathing.  Combining heroin, benzos, hydrocodone, fentanyl, or morphine can cause damage to the brain and other organs.  It can also lead to overdose and death.

Combining two or more drugs is known as polysubstance use.  By understanding the above risks involved, hopefully, you will be more forthcoming about your substance use when you visit your doctor again.    

Contact Design for Change If You Need Help for Polysubstance Use

Intentional or unintentional polysubstance use can lead to addiction.  At Design for Change Recovery, we offer a comprehensive program that is designed to treat these types of co-occurring addictions effectively.  

Multi-substance addiction presents unique challenges in the treatment process, but we are equipped and qualified to give the highest level of care available today.

Before substance use damages your mental and physical well-being, contact us to get started on your customized treatment plan soon.  Reach out to our Lancaster, CA facility to talk with one of our representatives and learn more about our programs.


  • – Is It Safe to Use Prescription Drugs in Combination with Other Medications?
  • – What Is Polysubstance Use?
Why Is It Risky to Be Dishonest With Your Doctor About Even Occasional Substance Use?