Heavy drinking and health module
Heavy drinking and health module
Preferred Name: Dylan
Dylan lives with his partner and two children in Sydney. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Australian’. Both of his parents were born in Australia.
Dylan started drinking heavily eight years ago when he was involved in a drug court program related to heroin use. He started drinking as a ‘substitute’ for using heroin. Opiates would have been detectable in mandated drug testing, while alcohol would not. When he drinks heavily, he can drink up to two or three bottles of bourbon a day. Lately, Dylan has been trying to ‘cut down’ his drinking because it is expensive, and he does not like feeling sick and ‘hungover’ in the morning. He wishes he had employment because regular working hours would alleviate some of his boredom and provide routine and balance.
Since being on the methadone program the last year, Dylan has stopped using heroin and says that not having it ‘hasn’t really bothered’ him. Dylan’s drinking patterns are mostly shaped by how much money he has at any given time. He says that being on Newstart makes finances and daily living difficult. After paying his rent he’s left with $200 for the rest of the fortnight for bills and other expenses. Although he no longer drinks wine and has been trying to ‘cut down’ on other alcohol too, he thinks that he has an ‘addiction’ to alcohol because he drinks daily and sometimes drinks everything in the house before going to bed. He describes one occasion where his drinking made him so sick he couldn’t get out of bed for three days, and was unable to attend the methadone clinic as well.
He felt especially ‘worried’ about his heavy drinking when he went to prison last year. He avoided disclosing the amount he was drinking because he didn’t want to be locked in a ‘safe room’. He says that when you are housed in those rooms, prison officers take your possessions and clothes, and take ‘your dignity away from you’.
Dylan was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2000. He is currently receiving the new direct-acting antiviral medications through the local chemist. He says that ‘after a week or two’ he ‘felt better’ and ‘could notice the difference’. After a recent blood test he was informed that he had cleared the hepatitis C virus.
Dylan has attended Narcotics Anonymous (NA) in the past but says it’s ‘not for [him]’. He currently sees an addiction medicine specialist doctor to get prescriptions for methadone. Although he describes getting ‘thorough’ and ‘good service’ at this clinic, he finds the doctor’s advice about liver health a bit ‘annoying’ and repetitive. He would prefer to receive less information and counselling.
At the time of the interview, Dylan was hoping to find a new job, ‘lose a little bit of weight’ and drink less.
Dylan [late 40s, Australian, unemployed but previously worked in construction, continuing to drink as usual and is on a methadone program] describes the ready availability and low price of some alcohol products affecting the frequency of his drinking.
Just because it’s everywhere … bottle shops, you know what I mean […] And you can get a cheap box of wine [for] $9. Yeah, when I was drinking bad, I was drinking wine. I don’t drink wine now, but yeah.
Dylan [late 40s, Australia, unemployed but previously worked in construction, continuing to drink as usual and was also on a methadone program] describes how he started drinking heavily to avoid testing positive to drugs while he was involved in a drug court.
Probably about eight years ago, yeah, I started [drinking] heavily […] I think I was [in the] drug court. You can’t use drugs because they test you all the time, so alcohol. It’s a substitute more or less […] I don’t know. It’s just a boredom thing to me really. I don’t get drunk, yeah, it’s just the vicious cycle […] Like health issues … it causes you health issues, [it’s] expensive and it’s a hard habit to kick. It’s the hardest habit that I’ve had other than heroin and all that, yeah.
He later describes how he was worried about alcohol withdrawal when he entered the prison system last year.
When I went to jail I was drinking a lot and I was worried about when I was getting locked up, because of the withdrawals. I was surprised yeah, that I didn’t get the shakes. I didn’t withdraw at all […] But I didn’t tell them I was a bad alcoholic when I went into jail, because if you do, they lock you in a safe room, you know what I mean […] Take everything off you […] Because it’s just … it takes your dignity away from you. They take all your clothes off you and leave you in a cell with just your undies.
Dylan [late 40s, Australian, unemployed but previously worked in construction, continuing to drink as usual and is on a methadone program] explains that the limited methadone dosing hours at the clinic he attends makes it hard for him to also go to work. Having so much free time makes it challenging to manage his drinking, so instead he tries to do most of the driving at home and keep busy with chores.
Well of course I drive. I try and do as much as I can, because I don’t drink and drive. So I try and do as much as I can […] in the car and that […] Yeah, [I look after the] house, like mowing the lawns, just trying to get my mind off it yeah […] But there’s only so much you can do, you know what I mean [… If I had a job] I wouldn’t be sitting at home all day, bored with nothing to do. Come home from work, tired, shower, dinner, and I might have one or two beers and go to bed.
Dylan [late 40s, Australian, unemployed but previously worked in construction, continuing to drink as usual and is on a methadone program] describes one incident when he didn’t seek help because he was bed-ridden for three days.
Yeah, when I was drinking bad, I was drinking wine. I don’t now drink wine, but yeah […] Because it made me real sick at one stage, and I just thought ‘no more wine’ […] I was bed-ridden for about three days, spewing up, diarrhoea, yeah alcohol poisoning I think, I don’t know. I didn’t go to the doctors, but yeah, about three days I was really crook. [I was] too sick to get out of bed really. I didn’t even come in to get my methadone, that’s how sick I was.
Dylan [late 40s, Australian, unemployed but previously worked in construction, continuing to drink as usual and on methadone program] says that when he attends appointments with his GP he receives education about the liver but he would rather just get a new methadone script.
[I see my doctor every] couple of months. Yeah […] the doctor here is very thorough […] Especially with [the] liver, and he really tries to get it into your head, you know what I mean, all the damage that you can do […] Like he always shows you the liver, you know what I mean, the model liver and what it does yeah […] Well I already know it really, yeah. [It’s] more annoying [laughs] [… I’d rather] just get what I need done and yeah, that’s it […] Just [a] brand new methadone script.