Thursday, March 08, 2007


Just have to share this with someone.

This morning at the Motorist Assessment Clinic I saw four patients, to determine if they were alcohol dependent or not. What we do consists of a questionaire of about a hundred questions, a brief physical exam and some blood tests. It's a procedure loathed by all - the patients find it degrading and intrusive, the doctors find it degrading and boring. Unfortunately it's apparently the best way of determining if someone is alcohol dependent and thus unfit to hold a licence.

People get sent to us after two normal sized drink driving offences in three years or two biggies in five. I used to live in fear of seeing some of my friends in the Motorist Assessment Clinic when they were sent there. Now, of course, I worry about seeing some of my friends in the psychiatric hospital when I am sent there.

My own feeling is the whole process sucks.

It sucked particularly today when I saw Mr Theopolos, a gentleman whose licence had been revoked after he had picked up driving with a breath alcohol of point one six - about three times our legal maximum. He sprawled on the chair, glaring at me, arms folded.

"It's all been shit since last time" he said.

"Uh huh?"

"Since you - " and here he pointed at me "took away my licence."

I had been thirty kilometres away at the time, but never mind. "How's that affected you?"

"Makes it a lot more risky to drive, I can tell you" he said.

"I'd imagine it would" I said.

"And that's why I'm drinking so much more now."

"So you're drinking a lot more now?" I said, pen poised over the 'alcohol dependent' box.

"Shit, yeah" he said.


"So how did losing your licence cause you to drink more?"

"Moral self restraint" he said, pronouncing the words carefully as if they were something either he or I would not understand. "Once you took my licence away I didn't really feel the need to exercise any moral self restraint."

I didn't ask if this was the same moral restraint he exercised to get his original conviction back in March 2005.

"I see."

"I didn't have as much responsibility, so I started drinking more. You're all to blame." There was a pause, and he summed up. "Lack of responsibility caused this."

I nodded vigorously, glad we could agree on something.

And the thing is, he did have a point - one of those "the less you have to do, the less you get done" kind of things. Maybe more responsibility would have been better for him than less. But somehow I can't imagine the police picking him up, breathalysing him, and saying "Yep, that's way over. Turn up at this address: from tomorrow you're driving a school bus. And one more conviction and it's airline pilot for you"

Anyhow. More cogent stuff later. Thanks for listening.


Anonymous ozma said...

I think he's right in a larger sense. Many people go from being loony selfish screw ups to responsible adults just from the birth of a child.

Unfortunately, this only works for some people.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous The Regional Support Clerk said...

Of course it's all your fault. Happens to us all the time. We evict someone and it's our fault because we charge too much rent - as high as $50- per week for a 4 bedroom house at times.

Accept it. It's YOUR fault these people are fucking up. As long as they shift the blame and justify it to themselves in their heads then they'll continue to do so. Why take responsiblity when you can find a scapegoat?

Next time give him a six pack and tell him to fuck off and die.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Midwife with a Knife said...

Just curious, what happens if you judge that someone's "Alcohol Dependant"? Do they have to have treatment to get their license back?

Anyway, clearly you are to blame for all of that man's problems. What's really fascinating to me is that sometimes people like that really believe that what they're saying is true. I wonder how people learn that.

4:57 AM  
Blogger Bronze John said...

Hail Ozma,
It's true what you say - it does happen but it doesn't always happen - I just discharged a fifty five year old man who is still cared for by his mother (close on eighty).

Chillingly, a fair proportion of my adult clients are looked after by their children.


9:56 AM  
Blogger Bronze John said...

Hail RSC,
I could give some of my lot a sixpack and it wouldn't see them out to the car-park.

Luckily this guy is somewhat of an exception - most of them have a "do the crime, do the time" way of looking at it.


9:59 AM  
Blogger Bronze John said...

Hail MWAK,
if we judge that someone is alcohol dependent they can't drive. This always strikes me as a bit weird - it's a medical problem with a forensic penalty. But I suppose they do the same thing in the US where (presumably) if you havbe a history of mental illness you can't get a gun licence.

They have to re-apply, and the waiting lists are quite long. Many people keep drinking and/or driving - I think Sarah saw someone with ten previous convictions.

One weird thing is when someone comes in and is not technically dependent (doesn't get withdrawal or compulsion, for example). Our diagnosis in those cases is "episodic hazardous" rather than "alcohol dependent", which means from a medical point of view they can still drive - even if they were pulled over with a BAL of five times the legal limit.


10:06 AM  

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