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November 18, 2002

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Question from Lakeland, Florida, USA:

My domestic partner was advised by his doctor that he needed to be checked for diabetes because his triglycerides were much too high, and his mother has diabetes. My partner is also a heavy drinker. Months ago, I confronted him about his drinking and for a period of time, he cut down his beer drinking for a week, only to have it climb again to a 9-12 beers a night and three glasses of wine. I have observed significant reality distortion that extends to “sober” times of the day. A week ago, his son confronted him about the drinking, and his response has been to drink at least a bottle of wine a night if not more consistently. He is more and more “out of his head” for lack of a better description, and I am suspecting that is related to hypoglycemic reactions.

He has not followed through with testing for diabetes but is attempting to control it with diet. Some of his symptoms include frequent urination, I suspect some impotence, being about 20 pounds overweight, and eye changes (harder and harder for him to focus. I want to talk to his doctor, at least to request that his doctor contact him for that testing and bring to the doctor’s attention that he is abusing alcohol. At this point, I am scared to death that he is playing Russian roulette, and I know from prior friendships that if he in fact does have diabetes, it is not a question of “if” rather a matter of time before one of these days he’s found in a diabetic coma. Am I out of line in being concerned? Am I out of line in talking with his doctor?

Answer:

I agree there is room for concern here. However, the question is what is the best way to confront him about his health and drinking. First, drinking causes elevated lipids that are worse in people with preexisting medical problems (such as diabetes). Second, he is consuming alcohol at a rate that is not healthy for him. He is in denial. Do not expect him to do the correct thing.

I do not necessarily think he will end up with a diabetic coma. However, the symptoms of frequent urination (although alcohol intake does the same thing) and blurring of vision can be symptoms of high blood sugars. I would recommend you speak with someone from the local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter than can council you and the family about a planned intervention that supportingly causes your partner to address his drinking problem.

JTL