Is Drinking in Moderation Possible for Alcoholics?

For some people, drinking in moderation can be a viable pathway to a healthier life. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the definition of moderate alcohol use differs for men and women. To evaluate this question, it’s important to recognize that alcohol use disorder (AUD) is diagnosed on a spectrum, and can be addressed in different ways depending on the individual. It involves the use of medications like naltrexone which help reduce alcohol cravings.

  • Learning for oneself that just a drink or two per day isn’t possible may provide an individual with evidence that he or she needs treatment.
  • Some answers can be found in research conducted by Keith Humphreys, Ph.D.3.
  • If you consider alcohol as a coping strategy, then it makes sense why heading straight to abstinence would be terrifying.

First of all, as mentioned earlier, don’t make a commitment until you are firm in your path to sobriety. Second, realize a commitment to sobriety is not a commitment to be forever perfect. Before you consider that to be a SMART Recovery® license to relapse, it is not.

Abstinence vs. Moderation

Also to be remembered are the experiences and feelings that come from abstinence. A moderation approach may be recommended for those who prefer a gradual approach to progress. Here are additional reflection questions from a therapist to help controlled drinking vs abstinence you understand your own relationship with alcohol, and if moderation meets your needs and preferences. Symptoms of withdrawal can include anxiety, confusion, heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, shaking and tremors, and insomnia.

After all, most of their triggers revolve around alcohol consumption, and having the possibility of relapse is too much of a burden. The Sinclair method is an approach that involves taking either Revia or Vivitrol before people drink. These medications minimize the endorphin release in the brain that usually accompanies drinking. Because this makes drinking less pleasurable, people are less likely to crave alcohol.

Alcohol Moderation Treatment Works

And while neither path is easy, the abstinence road seems to offer less resistance. A study conducted at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden found that the Reagans of the world are more successful in treatment than the Saras. Regardless of your path, working with a physician and therapist can provide answers, reassurance, and guidance throughout the process. You also don’t need to have a clear understanding of your goal to start making progress. Get the help you need from a therapist near you–a FREE service from Psychology Today.

These symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening, so it is imperative to understand your relationship with alcohol to avoid withdrawal. Maintaining moderation in drinking means starting out with a specific goal. The specific goal will depend on the individual’s particular situation. For example, someone might want to cut back on the amount they drink, or maybe slow down their rate of drinking. Once you are able to control how much you drink, you may find that you’re better able to enjoy family gatherings, social events, and work events.

Risks Of Moderate Drinking

Moderate drinking can be achieved through keeping track of how much you drink, pacing yourself when you drink, avoiding drinking with heavy drinkers, and pinpointing your heavy drinking triggers. By eliminating the sometimes daunting notion of zero-alcohol use, many find a moderation-based approach more attainable in their daily lives. “Harm reduction” strategies, or moderation techniques, set more flexible goals in line with patient motivation.

Many people think that abstinence is the only solution for problem drinking. Abstinence means giving up alcohol completely, and it’s the foundation of traditional treatment options like AA and most inpatient rehabs. But alcohol misuse is not a one-size-fits all problem, and neither is its solution. Moderation gives you control of your drinking and allows you to take back control of your life. The question of “Abstinence vs. Moderation” is one that some people contemplate daily, but that many others have never considered. Is abstinence the only answer, or can things improve if they learn to moderate their use?

The idea of moderation and mindful drinking is also a great way for people who are asking themselves “should I stop drinking? 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. There are no requirements for changing your relationship with alcohol and seeking treatment. Research indicates that while the likelihood of avoiding heavy alcohol consumption is highest in abstinence-focused individuals, those with moderation objectives were also able to reduce their alcohol use. An individual’s ability to avoid excessive drinking is also influenced by other factors such as past alcohol consumption, as reflected by an alcohol use disorder diagnosis. Depending on the number of criteria met, an individual will be diagnosed with mild, moderate, or severe AUD.

alcohol abstinence vs moderation

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