The aim of Anderson’s organisation is to accept that intoxication is a part of our world and works to minimise harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them. “While I think AA is a great mutual aid program for many, I also feel the message that you ‘are an alcoholic’ and ‘always will be’ is, from a mental health and wellness perspective, quite unhealthy”. Christopher Wanjek is the Bad Medicine columnist for Live Science and a health and science writer based near Washington, D.C. He is the author of two health books, “Food at Work” and “Bad Medicine” , and a comical science novel, “Hey Einstein” . For Live Science, Christopher covers public health, nutrition and biology, and he occasionally opines with a great deal of healthy skepticism.

Of course, you see it through the lens of restraining yourself from indulging. Think about how that can be true for you with alcohol.

So imagine that knob controls your desire and you can slowly start to turn it down. What creates your desire and why you have the power to change it. How the idea of abstinence strips you of your power and free will. 2 things we are taught about alcohol and desire that are simply wrong. As you likely know, alcohol can do a number on your brain, your liver, and your judgment. Here’s a quick overview of what happens when you stop drinking. Additional services are not a core component of treatment services offered or part our standard program.

alcohol moderation vs abstinence

Today, there are programs like Moderation Management, which do allow for a certain level of controlled drinking and have helped many learn to drink safely. Through Moderation Management’s Steps of Change, individuals are able to assess how drinking impacts their lives and learn how to better manage drinking-related problems. Through the Steps of Change, a person is asked to initially chart their drinking, write down all the issues that alcohol has created in their life, and keep a drinking diary of how much and how often they drink. Through this diary, a person can then look at how alcohol is involved in their daily life and identify potential problems. Advancements are being made every single day in the United States in the fields of medicine, technology, industry and countless others.

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This cumulated, at least in the United States, in the total prohibition of alcohol sales in the late 1910s. The law was famously repealed in the early 1930s, and by the middle of that decade, AA was formed, supporting the ‘total abstinence’ rhetoric which exists today. Levy, a treatment clinic director and a lecturer at Harvard Medical School, is exceedingly careful not to disparage AA. But he notes that one of AA’s limitations is its strict reading of its 12 steps. So, I’d say either I was more addicted in the past – OR – I changed things by implementing habits and succeeding with doing them every day, while at the same time eating a little bit of my “non-trigger” chocolate every day to desensitize myself. For me – before I learned to implement and stick to habits, I couldn’t have my trigger foods in the house, at all. I will eat half the loaf without even thinking about it.

alcohol moderation vs abstinence

Illustration © Eleanor DavisSo, in working together, she and I decided she would set the line between one or two drinks, which she would consider as “non-use” , and more than two drinks, which she would consider as “use” . The strategy was for her to remain engaged and rewarding for as long as he didn’t go over the two drinks. She would then remove rewards, disengage and allow natural consequences if she saw or sensed that he had drank more than effects of alcohol two drinks or was using stimulants. Here is an example of how the “bottom line” might be reestablished in your home. If they say they will only have two beers, then as long as they stay within that boundary you will behave as though they’re not using at all. So, based on the usual guideline of rewarding non-use and disengaging when there is use, you are going to slide down the scale a bit – from “zero tolerance” to tolerating one or two drinks.

“Eating clean” always seemed like a scam because it’s impossible to prove it does anything, whereas the effects of protein are so well-documented and produce alcohol moderation vs abstinence visible results, so it’s easy to see protein macros as a goal. There are many things that I’ll binge on but none of them will make me go crazy like sugar.

Addiction, as mentioned earlier, is most often characterized by the desire, yet inability, to reduce consumption of alcohol or drugs. Denial and fear are significant barriers to treatment – denial that they are not in control of their substance abuse, and fear of what life would be like if they did. Harm reduction programmes may allow an addict to feed that fear and denial further by never actually having to quit.

Everyone is different, and what works for some may not be right for others. However, according to research, abstinence has shown proven success in helping those who are addicted, while alcohol moderation has seen little results. Adi Jaffe, Ph.D., is a lecturer at UCLA and the CEO of IGNTD, an online company that produces podcasts and educational programs on mental health and addiction.

Attempting to moderate his alcohol use had been important for her husband to try. It might have succeeded for him if he hadn’t introduced the painkillers. A month after we learned of his opiate use, he entered outpatient therapy and began working on abstinence with both drugs and alcohol. His experience with the ritalin and now the painkillers made it clear to him that he was seriously susceptible to any drugand that had to include alcohol. Below, you can read a case study of how one woman applied the CRAFT method of alcohol intervention with her husband. She did this while he was attempting to moderate his drinking rather than abstain.

Harm Reduction Or Moderation Vs Abstinence In Drug Addiction Recovery

Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on GoodTherapy. Simply put; those who want to learn to drink in moderation are less likely to achieve their goal, while those who set a goal of quitting drinking entirely see greater success. Moderation management can be a step toward behavior change. Even when a person recognizes they have a substance use problem, they may be reluctant to give up drinking.

The Wallace et al. patients had a high level of abstinence; patients in Nordström and Berglund had a high level of controlled drinking. Social stability at intake was negatively related in Rychtarik et al. to consumption as a result either of abstinence or of limited intake. Apparently, social stability predicts that alcoholics will succeed better whether they choose abstinence or reduced drinking. But other research indicates that the pool of those who achieve remission can be expanded by having broader treatment goals. Goodwin, Crane, & Guze found that controlled-drinking remission was four times as frequent as abstinence after eight years for untreated alcoholic felons who had “unequivocal histories of alcoholism”. Results from the 1989 Canadian National Alcohol and Drug Survey confirmed that those who resolve a drinking problem without treatment are more likely to become controlled drinkers. Only 18 percent of 500 recovered alcohol abusers in the survey achieved remission through treatment.

alcohol moderation vs abstinence

While this may sound like an enticing option, alcohol in moderation can be a slippery slope, as it makes it easier to fall back into poor habits. Plus, this form of treatment is also very mentally taxing, as having a drink while managing an addiction can feel like an enormous strain. Controlled drinking has an important role to play in alcoholism treatment. Controlled drinking as well as abstinence is an appropriate goal for the majority of problem drinkers who are not alcohol-dependent. Finally, reduced drinking is often the focus of a harm-reduction approach, where the likely alternative is not abstinence but continued alcoholism. Despite the reported relationship between severity and CD outcomes, many diagnosed alcoholics do control their drinking. Severity of alcoholism is the most generally accepted clinical indicator of the appropriateness of CD therapy .

Research Shows That Moderate Drinking Can Work For Those Who Abuse Alcohol

Groups differed at baseline by history of recent treatment with 76% of abstinence only, 73% of abstinence to moderation, 68% of moderation only, and 57% of moderation to abstinence groups reporting any recent treatment. When you are ready, say to yourself, “I am not going to use again! ” Reinforce that commitment in any way possible and rational. One of the best ways is to remember why you are making the commitment. The consequences of using should be remembered, not with a guilty conscience, but in a realistic portrayal of why you have chosen sobriety. Also to be remembered are the experiences and feelings that come from abstinence. A balance of both experiences has proven to be a powerful tool.

alcohol moderation vs abstinence

Abstinence programs may encourage people to quit drinking alcohol over a period of time, instead of all at once, to reduce the risks that come with withdrawal. Indeed, temperance activists came to reject true temperance.

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Both men and women are supposed to restrict drinking to three to four days each week. As of yet, only nalmefene for alcohol abuse on the other hand has already been approved for moderation management treatments in the US. Even so, it may turn out to be a promising movement in the future. A study cited by a manufacturer mentioned eight days in which participants decreased their intake from 19 to eight over 6 months and cut their alcohol use in half. This moderation management plan is designed so that the identity of any given person remains a secret, and participation in the scheme is not a requirement to continue for the rest of one’s life. Marks of dependence aren’t a piece of this program, because there is no disgrace included.

“If I’m feeling good, I want to be out being social, and that means drinking.” The group offered some tips and tricks for sticking to the four-drink-a-night maximum, and for finding ways to be social without drinking. When you’re looking to drink in moderation, it’s a good idea to designate a few days as no-drinking days. Take some time to decide which days are OK to have a drink and effects of alcohol which days are off-limits. Our reviewers are credentialed medical providers specializing in addiction treatment and behavioral healthcare. We follow strict guidelines when fact-checking information and only use credible sources when citing statistics and medical information. Look for the medically reviewed badge on our articles for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

  • This is a site to help those who have left or want support in leaving and are experimenting with the idea or the reality of Moderation.
  • I see alcohol and my feeling is the feeling I had when I first started drinking , but then my brain kicks in and I remember what it was like at the end .
  • In fact I believe that my experience with alcoholism and not-drinking has made weight loss a cake walk by comparison, because weight loss has been almost effortless to me.
  • When people first enter substance abuse treatment, they’re often looking to cut back on drinking rather than stop altogether.
  • This moderation management plan is designed so that the identity of any given person remains a secret, and participation in the scheme is not a requirement to continue for the rest of one’s life.
  • One man celebrated the fact that he’d taken one day off from smoking weed and drinking.

I don’t think that abstinence is the only way to manage alcohol and I say that because I don’t know and I couldn’t possibly say. I might feel like I have one foot on steady ground and one on the step when I’m moderating, but I’m getting whisked along anyway regardless of how much I try to convince myself otherwise. Most U.S. adults who drink don’t drink every day.12 That’s why it’s important to focus on the amount people drink on the days that they drink. So what is the real definition of a problem drinker versus an alcoholic?

While it is one of the most effective treatment programs, succeeding about 20 percent of the time, it is one method among several, which include other kinds of support groups, psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of all of these. MM supporters say that MM doesn’t lead to relapse, and those who have such beliefs about MM would have relapsed anyway. Critics say that the program permits abstinent substance abusers to return to substance abuse and keep it under control.

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By doing so, you may even identify any triggers that cause you to drink—for example, certain social situations, stress from work, or even boredom. With the Sinclair Method, Revia or Vivitrol must be taken one hour before drinking alcohol. Once you start drinking, you may not be able to predict or control how much alcohol you’ll end up consuming. You may experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to reduce alcohol. Some therapists argue the risk associated with even the most minor of drinking is far too great. Rather than play word games, Levy says that if you think you have a problem—be it dependency or abuse—get help. Both his book, “Take Control of Your Drinking,” and “Last Call” were published nearly simultaneously, perhaps in an attempt to keep the alcoholism treatment debate lively.

Author: Ann Pietrangelo