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Moderation vs Abstinence: Should You Cut Back, or Quit Drinking?

Among all alcohol-abstinent study participants at baseline, we found 8 distinct subgroups according to risk factors. Subgroups 2 to 8 included 322 (72.04%) of the alcohol abstainers at baseline with one or more of the risk factors analyzed.

Now, the problem is you know deep down when you’re engaged in that, engaged in trying to convince yourself how alcohol is so bad for you, you know that you still really want it. It’s just becoming kind of a forbidden fruit for you, this thing that you aren’t supposed to want but you really do deep down. You can say no to a drink and still really, really, really want to drink. I know that that’s true because I spent many years in my life being in that exact same situation.

Alcohol Treatment Programs

Learn which signs to look out for, and how to care for your well-being. Abstinence may not be a realistic solution with some addictions, such as eating and in some cases sexual addictions. For these addictions moderation is the prescribed course of action.

  • These study participants were just 1% of the baseline sample what also corresponds to evidence shown before .
  • You don’t have to change the molecular makeup of alcohol.
  • However, a thin line can divide when it’s appropriate to seek treatment or when moderation or abstinence is enough.
  • You should take into account the severity of your drinking problem.
  • Both people might benefit from an accountability partner.

It’s a completely separate decision from whether or not you desire alcohol. Because it’s kind of wild when you let your brain go there. Right now, all of that thinking is happening and it’s totally automatic. No one shows us, hey you know, all of the thoughts that you’re having day in and day out, you can watch them, you can observe them, you can see what they produce for you, and you can decide to think different things.

Behaviour Research and Therapy

Harm reduction programs focus on the motivating factors behind a patient’s treatment. Some patients want to reduce their alcohol consumption slightly, but not completely. Others want to reduce risks related to drinking, such as driving drunk or engaging in risky behavior. I’m a big supporter of the idea that improvements in quality of life, in addition to or instead of measures of abstinence, need to be incorporated broadly into addiction treatment research. The way I see it, our goal in treating addiction alcohol abstinence vs moderation is to help a client improve their functioning, which is often being hampered by substance abuse but that is not necessarily completely dependent on it. Follow-up studies as long as 8 years showed that the people who were most successful in maintaining moderate problem-free drinking were those with less severe alcohol problems at the start. Many of those starting off with more severe problems succeeded with moderation for a period of time, but eventually chose to abstain from alcohol completely.

And certainly, most everything out there about changing your drinking or dealing with the habit of drinking isn’t about being your own best authority. It’s about listening to what someone else is saying is right for you, or admitting that you’re powerless and that you aren’t in control. They’re just looking for someone to say, hey, here’s the magic number. Just never have more than two drinks in a sitting and here’s how you do it. I don’t teach that because that is straight up diet culture.

Japanese Alcohol Culture

Individuals who abstain from alcohol might include those who have risk factors that can be reasons for the shorter life expectancy compared to low to moderate alcohol consumers. Some treatment programs teach problem drinkers to reduce their drinking. This approach appeals to people who otherwise might not seek treatment. These programs are based on the belief that people can change their drinking behaviors. Nordström and Berglund, like Wallace et al. , selected high-prognosis patients who were socially stable. 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.

While the burden to deliver effective treatments falls on health care providers, individual factors can impact how well someone responds to these treatments. Among the most widely studied are how motivated and confident someone is in being able to reduce or quit drinking.

Abstinence or Moderation? Drinking Goals in a Web-based Intervention for Veterans

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. Despite the reported relationship between severity and CD outcomes, many diagnosed alcoholics do control their drinking. 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.

  • Because what you try to do with moderation is you try to follow a rule rather than listening to your body’s response in the present moment.
  • Alcohol moderation also sometimes thought of as controlled drinking involves careful monitoring of alcohol consumption to try to avoid problematic drinking.
  • In the case of drug abusers, the theory of moderation management no longer holds as much sway but a single alcohol overdose can be fatal — of the 38 million people who admitted to drinking alcohol, 2,200 died from alcohol overdose.
  • And so what I want to do today is explain my viewpoint on both abstinence and moderation, and why I think that both of these options are rife with problems.

If you want to resolve problem drinking without medication, abstinence may be a better choice for you. When you are ready, say to yourself, “I am not going to use again! ” Reinforce that commitment in any way possible and rational.

Total Alcohol Abstinence vs. Moderation: Which One Wins in the End?

Some are even able to relearn moderate drinking after abstinence. From day one, Ria Health has offered support for the Sinclair Method—a medication-based approach to moderate drinking or abstinence with a 78 percent success rate. Individuals confident in their ability to reduce heavy drinking are most likely to respond well to a moderation-focused treatment and, as authors point out, they may be more willing to try abstaining on certain days to reach their overall moderation goal.

alcohol abstinence vs moderation

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. Proactively cutting back on drinking can start to illuminate how drinking less can give you more, and create the mental clarity to identify your goals and values.

Because once you start to do that, you start to see how your thinking is creating all this desire to drink and desire for more, and leading to deprivation and leading to judgment. And when you see that, all of a sudden, you have your path forward for how you can start to change those thoughts. But once I started to bring it to the surface, that’s when I really started to understand, oh okay, so this is what’s really creating my desire. Everything that I’m thinking about the drink and what it means to drink and what it means not to drink and how I believe I’m going to feel and how I will feel when I say no and what’s happening in my body once I start.

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