Drinking in Moderation vs Abstinence

Upstairs from one of my favorite Oakland dive bars, 10 people of varying ages and backgrounds are sitting in a circle, talking about their drinking problem. 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. When I first set about writing this article, many of the issues I was going to bring up had to do with research on alcohol relapse patterns, my own story, and other evidence I’ve already introduced on All About Addiction. Abstinence can help to reduce conflicts with family members and significant others (e.g., spouse, parents, etc.) caused or exacerbated by your alcohol use. 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.

Their decision is often the result of failed attempts at controlled drinking and/or suffering severe alcohol-related consequences. Uncertainty about which direction to choose is normal at the early stages of recovery and can remain for years to come. If you are considering which path may be best for you, it can be helpful to first identify what your main goals are with your substance for the near future. It is often recommended for those with their minds set on moderation to experience a period abstinence vs moderation of complete abstinence in order to have something to compare abstinence with. If one has been using some form of mind altering substance for years on end, it will be hard to gauge if moderation or abstinence is right, when abstinence has not been experienced since childhood, or years in the past. Taking a break from all substances for at least 30 days gives one the opportunity to compare how they feel being sober, versus having a mood altering substance affecting their perception.


We explain the benefits of not drinking at all and routinely encourage all new clients to start with a period of abstinence, even if their ultimate goal is moderation. When given a chance to try moderation with professional support and guidance, clients either learn how to drink moderately or they learn that moderation is not realistic for them and that it might be better to stop drinking entirely. Clients who choose abstinence after being unable to moderate consistently are often more motivated and personally invested in making abstinence work for them. Individuals with severe AUD often find that in the long term, sobriety is the most achievable goal for them. Keeping alcohol in your life in a healthy way can be really challenging, especially for people who have exhibited more severe drinking habits and patterns. A permanent commitment to abstinence means we no longer have to fight a battle with moderation; but rather devote ourselves to sobriety permanently. Ours is a “no excuses” program, we are responsible for our decisions and behaviors; we have a choice. There is a feeling of freedom that results from this commitment where one does not feel hopeless or without choices. Combined with a consistent and aggressive disputing of urges to use, most find their messages to use either decrease to nothing or become infrequent and easily handled. It may not be easy to see now, but your life can be restored to where you are in control, your addiction and the urges will recede to an unpleasant memory.

Americanaddictioncenters.org needs to review the security of your connection before proceeding. I spent the first semester of my sophomore year of college snorting speed. I also used marijuana to come down, drank excessively while high, and took a lot of ecstasy. By the time winter break rolled around, I was emaciated and had shingles.

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A permanent commitment means we are committed to a course of action for the future and we will do every thing in our power to fulfill and maintain that commitment. Once you form your new drinking habit, you’ll want to maintain it. Most of us can look back to a period when we’d developed a healthy exercise routine or improved our diet only to lose momentum and regress to old patterns of behavior. Maintaining a habit takes less energy than habit formation, but it can’t survive without some nurturing.
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So for him, meetings have always seemed more like a way to get group therapy without either paying for it or admitting to needing it. While there is a framework to MM, based on Kern’s book Responsible Drinking, it’s also a program that prides itself on flexibility and enabling people to find their own paths forward. Three out of the 10 people at the meeting I attended said they weren’t ready to do a 30 yet, but were planning shorter breaks. One man celebrated the fact that he’d taken one day off from smoking weed and drinking. He does both in moderation daily, and his concern was more about the frequency and the fact that he can never seem to take a day off than the amount of any particular substance consumed. And an opportunity to gain a more realistic perspective on the way they use alcohol and how it is getting in the way of achieving their personal goals and aspirations. Our approach is distinctly client-centered, not program-centered.

This program uses a method called Addictive Voice Recognition Technique. This is a behavioral program that you do on your own through self-help books and seminars. There was no therapist in the room, and the moderator, a two-year MM “veteran”, gently steered people away from delving too deeply into issues that might be better addressed in therapy. Perioperative alcohol cessation intervention for postoperative complications. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site. Onlinelibrary.wiley.com needs to review the security of your connection before proceeding. Abstinence may enhance or restore the effectiveness of prescribed medications you are taking for other problems such as depression, anxiety, etc.
abstinence vs moderation
After a period of moderate drinking, some people end up achieving abstinence anyway. If quitting is your ultimate goal, starting with moderation may help you achieve it. And even if you don’t plan to quit, you may find that you lose interest in alcohol after practicing moderation. It is very important to note that this study specifically excluded people who had previously been admitted to alcohol or drug treatment as well as those who had symptoms of severe alcohol withdrawal at any point in their life . This means that the participants likely did not include some of the most severe alcoholic cases. We will help you decide whether moderation-based treatment or abstinence-based treatment is best for you. Our evaluation process will give you objective feedback about the nature and severity of your drinking problem and its impact on your life. And we will help you develop a more useful perspective on the problem.

Do you want to cut down on your drinking rather than give up alcohol completely? Dr. Washton offers personalized concierge care that can help you learn how to moderate your drinking within safer limits. While your relationship with alcohol is entirely personal, reflecting on outside influences can be helpful when considering the relative benefits of sobriety or moderation. These influences may include family dynamics, workplace culture, friendships, strained relationships, and lifestyle elements. 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.

  • It’s easier to maintain your motivation and stay on the right track.
  • In addition to making my family forever suspicious of anyone in uniform, the experience sent three out of the four members of my nuclear family straight into substance abuse.
  • Want to cut down on your drinking rather than give up drinking completely?
  • Taking a break from all substances for at least 30 days gives one the opportunity to compare how they feel being sober, versus having a mood altering substance affecting their perception.
  • Kern has been helping patients with moderation in a clinical setting for more than a decade, which entails a formal therapeutic protocol that includes using a Breathalyzer and closely monitoring patients’ progress.

If you do not drink at all, you eliminate the possibility of incurring any additional adverse consequences (e.g., legal problems, health risks, etc.) caused directly or indirectly by your alcohol use. Dry January in order to gain the space to re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol. They might practice sobriety regularly with interspersed episodes of moderation. Or, they may have decided on sobriety as a permanent change in their lifestyle. While it is legal for adults, it can still be dangerous, and many people do become dependent on this substance. Programs like our alcohol use treatment in Ohio that help people quit drinking altogether can be helpful, but there are plenty of different theories on the subject. This word “abstinence” can be an intimidating word to many, especially those in the early stages of recovery. Your whole body may convulse saying, “I’ll do anything, just don’t ask me or tell me that I have to stop forever.” This is normal. If this is how you feel, commit yourself to being open to new ideals and beliefs that may result in a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle.

Abstinence vs. Moderation

Although all these methods aim at reducing or curbing addiction, they have differences. You have experienced enough consequences in your life that no one needs to tell you that you are fed up with your addictive behavior. If you are just starting your recovery program it may take time to make a decision on a commitment to abstinence before it is really firm in your heart. It needs to be something that you are really committed to and not just something you would like to do. Stick with the program and let the decision build in your heart. Heavy drinkers that are able to moderate their drinking may be more like people with early-stage heart disease. Characterizing heart disease in stages allows physicians to match treatment with severity. It is not difficult to imagine how alcoholism might be characterized in a similar way and how treatments could be calibrated to the appropriate stage of the illness. Moderation often requires that you take anti-craving medication for an indefinite period of time.

Alcohol moderation also sometimes thought of as controlled drinking involves careful monitoring of alcohol consumption to try to avoid problematic drinking. The idea behind drinking in moderation versus abstinence is that some people may not want complete abstinence from alcohol. While not as popular traditionally for treatment, the alcohol moderation movement has grown recently, and moderation management programs are on the rise. This model can be a type of harm reduction strategy for someone who is unwilling to give up alcohol completely but trying to decrease the amount and frequency of their intake. This may also be the approach for heavy drinkers looking to cut back, but there are some concerns with this approach to alcohol recovery for those with alcohol use disorders.

What alcohol is easiest on your liver?

According to a new study published in Oxford's Alcohol and Alcoholism journal, scientists discovered that hoppy beer is significantly less harmful to the liver than liquor and even beer without hops.

For any addict, the biggest problem of addiction is reaching to the point of total abstinence, which is achieved through abstinence. Through professional treatment, abstinence is effective, with a minimal chance of relapse for persons who maintain abstinence for more than five years. The improvements observed post-intervention were significantly less among participants reporting more severe drinking at baseline; this effect was similar across all four groups. Moderation can also work for a lot of people who do not see any consequences from their substance use and therefore have little desire or internal motivation to change. For those with comorbid disorders, ordual-diagnosis,moderation may work once the individual has worked on their mental health and feel they are in a good place as substances are often used to self-medicate. Individuals who are dual-diagnosis may have used their substance as their primary coping mechanism and in some cases may be able to drink moderately upon receiving the mental health they need. These answers will vary from individual to individual, and your choice of moderation vs. abstinence is a personal one. Whether you want to quit drinking or cut back, we’re here to help. Our program offers expert medical support, recovery coaching, and a variety of tools and resources—all delivered 100 percent virtually. Learn more about moderation with Ria Health, or find out how our program works.

This study found less improvement in alcohol use outcomes for those with more severe drinking at baseline. Certain substance use disorders and certain levels of severity may be better suited for traditional methods monitored and managed by clinical professionals. Whether via self-talk or a conversation with a trusted friend, family member, or healthcare professional, it’s important to talk about your urges and remind yourself why you chose to moderate your drinking in the first place. Learning to accept these feelings, and finding healthy ways to distract yourself from them, will also go a long way toward helping you to handle any urges to drink.

If one drink still leads to several more, attempting moderation isn’t the safest choice. People who have a more severe drinking problem and find moderation difficult to maintain often do better with abstinence. 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 idea is so pervasive that most addiction treatment providers actually expel clients for relapsing, a notion that makes no sense to me especially if you believe in the idea that addiction is a chronic disease. In fact, even most research institutions and well-informed Sober House providers use total abstinence as the marker for addiction treatment success. You’ve probably been told that controlled drinking is simply not a safe or realistic option for anyone who’s developed a drinking problem. And that it is a setup for failure based on the assumption that drinking problems always progress and inevitably gets worse. According to this view, lifelong abstinence is the one and only way to deal successfully with a drinking problem. As part of the evaluation process, we help clients understand where they are in terms of the nature and severity of their alcohol problem and their chances of succeeding at moderation.

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