Medical Q&As

Depression - concerned about friend?

I have a 44 year old male friend who has a history of depression. For the past two years he has been taking a low dose antidepressant and has also been prescribed valium. He drinks up to 5 pints at the weekend and up to 3 pints 2-3 times a week. He finds he has a severe problem with agitation, morbid thoughts, obsessions, and he can become violent. He is also addicted to cannabis and when he cannot get a supply he finds he cannot cope and relies on drink. This person is crying out for help but finds he is embarrassed to discuss this with his family doctor as the doctor speaks to him in a parent/child mode or is indifferent. On hearing that his patient was smoking cannabis this doctor hit the table and said “you are hanging around with dodgy people”. To me this is not the reaction of a professional person who understands mental health illnesses. My question is could you give me the name of a health professional who is an expert in the field of mental health and who would be familiar with the fact that patients like my friend end up making up their own rules as to dosage of drugs and mixing them with alcohol or cannabis in order to feel normal? I hope you can help.

There are many health professionals available who could be of help to your friend and it would not be appropriate for me to name one in particular. However, I would suggest that your friend should seriously consider the option of changing to another doctor because his relationship with his current doctor does not seem to be very productive. Your friend’s current drug use also needs to be seriously addressed. Currently he is taking a potent cocktail of four psychoactive drugs; namely, alcohol, cannabis, valium and an antidepressant. This cocktail is undoubtedly a major contributing factor to his current mental disturbance. I strongly suspect that if he changed his current drug taking habits, and I am referring here to all four drugs, that his current symptoms would diminish. I would also question the combined use of valium and an antidepressant. Given his current use of cannabis and alcohol he is very much at risk of becoming addicted to valium, assuming that this has not already happened. I think your friend needs a fresh start with another doctor who would be able to provide him with ongoing care and could also refer him on to specialist services if and when required.