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Moderation Management: Does Controlled Drinking Work?

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This suggests that treatment experiences and therapist input can influence participant goals over time, and there is value in engaging patients with non-abstinence goals in treatment. The results suggest that the 12-step philosophy, with abstinence as the only possible choice, might mean that people in the AA community who are ambivalent and/or critical regarding parts of the philosophy must “hide” their perceptions on their own process. Experiences of the 12-step programmes and AA meetings were useful for a majority of the clients. Thus, it was not the sobriety goal in itself that created problems, but the strict belief presenting this goal as “the only way”. The results suggest the importance of offering interventions with various treatment goals and that clients choosing CD as part of their sustained recovery would benefit from support in this process, both from peers and from professionals.

controlled drinking vs abstinence

Some people shouldn’t drink at all, especially if you have a history of addiction problems or a close relative with an addiction or mental health issue. When we can learn to stop at the “buzz,” we are well on our way to having our relationship with alcohol fully in check. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, yet the initial effects of alcohol in these amounts are more stimulating and euphoric feeling. People tend not to get into serious trouble from these amounts, but since the initial effects feel good, many people continue to drink past these amounts, assuming more alcohol equates to more good. It takes time for alcohol to work itself into your system, so people don’t realize how drunk they are getting, and in larger amounts alcohol has a depressing effect.

Recovery After Rehab: Moderation or Abstinence?

However, she saw the potential for developing full-blown alcohol dependence if she didn’t change her behavior. Given the abstinence focus of many SUD treatment centers, studies may need to recruit using community outreach, which can yield fewer participants compared to recruiting from treatment (Jaffee et al., 2009). However, this approach is consistent with the goal of increasing treatment utilization by reaching those who may not otherwise present to treatment.

Although critics claim Alcoholics Anonymous has poor success rates, and some sources estimate it at fewer than five percent, AA to the contrary claims its success rates aren’t truly accurate due to its anonymity.[15] Moderation Management has its drawbacks as well, and its opponents are also concerned about it. Is a member of the advisory boards for Pfizer and Lundbeck and has received speaker fees from Lundbeck. Is a member of advisory boards for Pfizer, D&A Pharma, Ethypharm, and Lundbeck, and How to Open an Inmates Halfway House in 2023 Business Plan has received sponsorship to attend scientific meetings, speaker honoraria, and consultancy fees from Bioprojet, D&A Pharma, Ethypharm, Lundbeck, Merck-Serono, Novartis, and Pfizer. The researchers used a baseline assessment and then followups at 3, 6, and 12 months. There was no inpatient treatment component, just use of the MM website alone, or in conjunction with the new interactive web application. Some interview person (IP) were former polydrug users and altered between AA and NA meetings.

Alcohol Moderation Management: Programs and Steps to Control Drinking

More recently, a meta-analysis on 17 behavioral self-control training randomized controlled studies including patients with AD or problem drinking found a combined effect size across all studies was 0.33 [55]. The author found no difference between studies with alcohol-dependent patients versus problem drinkers who did not necessarily meet criteria for AD. For all we know, it might also be an option for people who do meet criteria for alcohol dependence but since the study we’re about to assess didn’t talk about it, we’ll leave that for later.

  • Importantly, these guidelines emphasize that a harm reduction approach is far better than status quo.
  • Along with this trend, alcohol treatment guidelines are also including alcohol reduction as an alternative drinking goal in alcohol-dependent patients, along with abstinence.
  • However, for others, it may provide dangerous justification to continue alcohol abuse.
  • Attempting controlled drinking as a full-blown alcoholic can be extraordinarily damaging.
  • All the interviewees had attended treatment programmes following the 12-step philosophy and described abstinence as crucial for their recovery process in the initial interview, five years ago.
  • Indeed, even in such cases, moderation management with the balance requirement is a significant element for progress.
  • The only way to ascertain for certain whether you are capable of having just one or two drinks is to try it over a period of time, say 6 months.

Just because an individual manages to stop abusing alcohol or drugs, it does not necessarily mean that their problems are all behind them. The reality is that stopping the substance abuse is just the first step in a long process that leads to a full recovery from addiction. Those who remain abstinent from alcohol or drugs without achieving sobriety will struggle to find any real enjoyment in life. Such people would be better described as on the wagon rather than free of addiction. Controlled drinking as well as abstinence is an appropriate goal for the majority of problem drinkers who are not alcohol-dependent. In addition, while controlled drinking becomes less likely the more severe the degree of alcoholism, other factors—such as age, values, and beliefs about oneself, one’s drinking, and the possibility of controlled drinking—also play a role, sometimes the dominant role, in determining successful outcome type.

Recovery Requires More Than Abstinence

Notably, these individuals are also most likely to endorse nonabstinence goals (Berglund et al., 2019; Dunn & Strain, 2013; Lozano et al., 2006; Lozano et al., 2015; Mowbray et al., 2013). In contrast, individuals with greater SUD severity, who are more likely to have abstinence goals, generally have the best outcomes when working toward abstinence (Witkiewitz, 2008). Together, this suggests a promising degree of alignment between goal selection and probability of success, and it highlights the potential utility of nonabstinence treatment as an “early intervention” approach to prevent SUD escalation. Individuals with both abstinence and nonabstinence goals benefit from treatment. For example, in AUD treatment, individuals with both goal choices demonstrate significant improvements in drinking-related outcomes (e.g., lower percent drinking days, fewer heavy drinking days), alcohol-related problems, and psychosocial functioning (Dunn & Strain, 2013).

If there are any people who encourage you to drink too much, try to avoid them for the first month or so while you get used to your new style of drinking. If you are constantly surrounded by peer pressure to drink, start seeking out new friends or family members who don’t drink as much. The most straightforward drinking diaries just record how much you drink each day, but the more you can keep track of, the better you will understand your own drinking patterns, and thus be able to control them.

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