Abstinence vs Moderation for Those Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol

Doing a reality check with a simple online self-assessment might be the first step. Take the Alcohol Use Disorders Test (AUDIT) developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) online. Fortunately for me, I set up Alternatives with an entire data collection operation that allows me to look at everything from health to depression, anxiety, emotional well-being, family and employment issues, and more.

alcohol abstinence vs moderation

While your loved one is trying to moderate their use, you can decide what the bottom line is going to be. However, please know that it is not necessarily advisable to include your loved one in this decision or discussion about the new “bottom line.” It can be more of an internal decision that you, the family member(s) make. Many families of addicted loved ones find themselves wishing for their loved one to swing from one extreme clear over to the other. Their dearest wish becomes that their loved one never touch another drop, take another hit, etc.

How to test if moderation can work

If you want to resolve problem drinking without medication, abstinence may be a better choice for you. When people aiming for abstinence make a mistake, they may feel like quitting is impossible and give up entirely. You can have an occasional drink without feeling defeated and sliding deeper into a relapse. Moderation can open a window for you to defuse the emotional challenges that create the craving for relief that alcohol provides. An Alliesinrecovery.net member worries about her son who is 1,500 miles away, since his binge drinking continues to be a regular reality.

  • More people than ever are recognizing the negative effects of drinking alcohol and re-evaluating how it shows up in their life.
  • I can’t even think of how many times I’ve heard the notion that complete, total, abstinence should be the only goal for all people who abuse drug or alcohol.
  • This includes those managing liver disease, bipolar disorder, abnormal heart rhythms, or chronic pain.
  • You know, the stuff we can see, feel and measure (I’m a stats geek after all).

If you believe you or someone you love may be struggling with addiction, let us hear your story and help you determine a path to treatment. By Buddy T

Buddy T is a writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Because he is a member of a support group that stresses the importance of anonymity at the public level, he does not controlled drinking vs abstinence use his photograph or his real name on this website. Moderate drinking means drinking about 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor in one sitting. I have reviewed many other books to help you cut down on alcohol here if you are interested to see my favourite. Abstinence may not be a realistic solution with some addictions, such as eating and in some cases sexual addictions.

Alcohol Moderation or Abstinence?

His experience with the ritalin and now the painkillers made it clear to him that he was seriously susceptible to any drug  and that had to include alcohol. While achieving moderation is possible, the reality is that most recovering alcoholics will choose the abstinence route. Staying away from alcohol entirely is one of the best ways to prevent a relapse.

  • The key premise of any approach is that moderate drinking is a practical and reasonable goal for those people who face less severe drinking issues.
  • According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in 2019, 85.6% of individuals in the United States aged 18 years or older reported that they had consumed an alcoholic beverage at one time in their life.
  • Because he is a member of a support group that stresses the importance of anonymity at the public level, he does not use his photograph or his real name on this website.
  • When it comes to the debate between complete abstinence or alcohol moderation, advice can dramatically differ, leaving many people confused and unsure which path to take to make a positive change in their lives.
  • The researchers found that 447 (11.1%) participants had not consumed any alcohol in the 12 months before the interviews in 1996–1997.

Many who practice it find that they are better at understanding how much they are drinking, are able to reduce or eliminate binge drinking, and suffer fewer negative consequences from alcohol abuse. This suggests that the field as a whole needs to get past this argument. The question should no longer be whether moderation treatment should be an option but rather what treatment offers the best outcomes for those seeking moderation. With the aid of medications like naltrexone and more, we can get substantial improvements in drinking behavior even if we don’t achieve abstinence. Given our findings, I think it would be hard to argue that people who struggle with alcohol problems have to accept abstinence as their goal in treatment and in life. We are finding very good support for the notion that there is a place for moderation treatment and that, overall, seeking moderation results in outcomes that are at least as good as seeking abstinence.

When To Consider Treatment

Studies have shown that in some cultures there are a small percentage of people who can return to moderate drinking. Attempts at moderation may not be worth the effort or the risk when considering the consequences. If your own life has been a mess because of your addictive behavior, why chance it?

alcohol abstinence vs moderation

This means that the participants likely did not include some of the most severe alcoholic cases. The population of people who use MM is pretty well educated and is made up for the most part of problem drinkers rather than those meeting full-blown alcohol dependence criteria. The idea is to teach problem drinkers more responsible drinking habits so that they don’t devolve their habits into all-out alcoholism.

They’re able to enjoy an occasional drink while still avoiding negative drinking behaviors and consequences. While the pandemic seems to have triggered substantial increases in alcohol consumption, and in alcohol abuse, this is true on a macro level. For some people, the pandemic created more opportunities for reducing drinking.

  • They not only had a greater reduction in drinking days per week (about 3 days per week by the end of the treatment period).
  • Prof. Dr. Ulrich John and his team believe their research shows that the lower life expectancy for those who do not drink alcohol compared with those who do can be due to other high risk factors.
  • This is especially true in light of the fact that moderate drinking might be good for health and intervention research shows us that changing behavior is possible.
  • Abstinence is certainly the advisable route for those with a severe alcohol use disorder (AUD), although many with mild or moderate symptoms may also opt for an alcohol-free life if they feel that it just isn’t working for them anymore.


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