Abstinence may not be the easiest addiction treatment approach, but it is the most effective. Abstinence refers to the complete restraint of drugs and substance abuse. It has a minimal chance of relapse for persons who maintain abstinence for more than five years and has been deemed the most effective substance addiction treatment. On the other hand, moderation refers to an addiction treatment method that entails indulging in addictive substances or activities on some occasions. It focuses on substance abuse patterns such as why and when a person indulges in these substances as well as the maintenance of high levels of accountability.

abstinence vs moderation

Multivariable stepwise regressions estimating the probability of non-abstinent recovery and average quality of life. After you have completed rehab, you may be worried about relapsing. This feeling is normal, so be sure to stay connected with a support group, like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous . Keeping in touch with a counselor, outpatient facility, or support group will help you stay on track to sobriety and will support your choice to stay abstinent. Knowing these statistics, why would any of these people choose to drink again?

Research Supports Moderation

In case you’ve never heard of Moderation Management , you should check out their website. Moderation management offers face-to-face and online meetings, a listserv, a forum, online alcohol drinking limit guidelines, a self-help book that can be ordered through the site, and an online calendar where users can report their drinking. Promising yourself a rich dessert after several days of eating healthy can help keep your diet on track. In the same way, being able to limit yourself to just one or two glasses of wine after a long day at work can motivate you to drink responsibly.

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. Individuals who received moderation training substantially reduced their alcohol consumption on average by 50-70% and, as a result, significantly reduced health and social problems related to their drinking. People who sought help to moderate their drinking were already experiencing significant problems related to their drinking, but were not as seriously dependent on alcohol as those who sought help from traditional abstinence-based treatment programs.

abstinence vs moderation

It frequently helps in fighting off worries from others in their life, as well. While pundits of moderation management rush to bring up the potential for erroneously buying into program rehearses, the equivalent can be said of teetotalers. Individual responsibility is a major piece of MM, similarly all things considered with AA. There are various ways that individuals can take advantage of face-to-face gatherings, very much like what is offered by moderation management, or they can settle on online experiences that can fulfill the same need in a more adaptable way. On the site of the program, one can find aides that show how much alcohol is permissible as well as commentaries that allow individuals to examine their battles and find recognition for their accomplishments.

Alcohol Abstinence Vs Moderation Degree Of Dependence Predicts Which Strategy Works Best

When it comes to moderation, since the definition of success and failure seems blurry at best, many of the statistics attached to the method are also unreliable. This arbitrary nature makes it much easier to claim success in harm reduction than abstinence. When comparing harm reduction vs. abstinence, it is also important to bring up the AA Model. Abstinence is based on AA principles, which use spirituality and family involvement as a foundation of its teachings.

The most effective treatment for alcoholism includes an orientation to Alcoholics Anonymous . These principles include group support, set expectations, and individual counseling. While some people are more or less motivated to get residential abstinence vs moderation alcohol treatment, this does not define the success of the treatment outcome. You can say yes and have no desire, or you can say yes and have a ton of desire. How much desire you feel and your choice to drink are not one and the same.

Families attempting to find substance abuse treatment for a loved one must honestly assess the enormity of the problem. If an individual is abusing illicit drugs or prescription drugs, abstinence-only treatment may be advisable.

abstinence vs moderation

Lastly, this being a study, it is very possible that participants were better motivated, more informed, and more likely to put in the effort required to use the moderatedrinking.org program. Future work would need to assess the effectiveness of this tool in the field without such interference. Ask yourself what were the excuses you gave yourself to use and dispute them. Your commitment isn’t broken and you can renew your resolve. If you do slip, the outcome does not have to be an experience without worth, it can be a powerful learning experience. It does not mean that you will repeat this behavior in the future. Forgive yourself, learn from it and remember that a commitment applies to what we plan for the future.

As many addiction therapists would attest, this is an unrealistic expectation. Much of the abstinence-only addiction recovery community attacks the harm reduction theory for enabling addicts to continue drinking. As was discovered with Kishline , it’s not uncommon for a person to lie about how much alcohol he or she is consuming.

Abstinence Vs Moderation: Comparison Table

These individuals may be naturally finding ways in their environment to help them reduce or abstain (e.g., seeking social support), for example, or automatically using cognitive strategies to help them stick to limits on days they drink. The improvements observed post-intervention were significantly less among participants reporting more severe drinking at baseline; this effect was similar across all four groups. MM supporters say that MM doesn’t lead to relapse, and those who have such beliefs about MM would have relapsed anyway. Critics say that the program permits abstinent substance abusers to return to substance abuse and keep it under control. Some concern that control practices may support liquor use among victimizers, considering drinking to be balanced as a free pass to keep manhandling liquor when it has been an undeniable issue in the victimizer’s life. Those people who can’t keep up balance propensities in the MM program by and large wind up proceeding onward to restraint programs, something a revealed 30% of MM members do. The abuse of alcohol by some people may only be temporary, whereas alcoholism is permanent.

abstinence vs moderation

The studies suggest that for some people who may have not gone over the line into a pervasive pattern of use, they can drink a few glasses of alcohol, learn to stop there, and come to enjoy a somewhat normal life of drinking. The argument between harm reduction and abstinence boils down to an individual’s needs. For a person who is a diagnosed alcoholic or a heavy drinker (more than 5 drinks on the same occasion on each of five or more days in a 30-day period), harm reduction may not be a realistic option. It relies on a person who previously had difficulty controlling his or her drinking to suddenly develop self-control.

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. 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.

  • I probably would fit the criteria for substance abuse, but not full-blown addiction.
  • Join me today as I share my viewpoint on abstinence and moderation when it comes to changing the habit.
  • Later, she explains that there was a time not long ago when the idea of getting through any day without five or six drinks seemed impossible to her.

While not as popular traditionally for treatment, the alcohol moderation movement has grown recently, and moderation management programs are on the rise. Most people struggling Alcohol detoxification with addiction cannot successfully moderate their substance use without full abstinence. Additionally, many addictive substances like drugs and alcohol lower inhibition.

How To Test If Moderation Can Work

Some people may never get the care they need to start this journey and as a result, will never achieve abstinence. Only you know which treatment philosophy is best for you. Educate yourself on the risks and benefits of abstinence and harm reduction approaches. There are resources available to you to help you choose your treatment approach and facility. If you are struggling with a substance use disorder and would like to explore the possibility of getting help, contact Pyramid Healthcare. Some people with substance use disorders struggle to identify their drinking or drug use as a problem. However, they may be able to admit that they are having some medical, financial, or relational issues in their lives.

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. Yes, this is an established fact supported by decades of scientific research showing that with proper help, many people with less severe drinking problems are able to cut down on their alcohol consumption and keep it within safer limits. From a Alcohol detoxification harm reduction perspective (a modern alternative to the traditional AA-based abstinence-only perspective) any steps taken to reduce the risks and harms associated with alcohol and other substance use are steps taken in the right direction. Rarely, if ever, do heavy drinkers choose to give up alcohol for good until they are convinced by their own experience that moderation is simply not attainable.

Standard alcohol programs that strive for abstinence will not likely be a good fit for many of these individuals. In general, heavy drinkers who are physically addicted to alcohol and/or those who have suffered serious alcohol-related problems are better off not drinking at all, as moderation is less effective. It is also not intended for formerly dependent drinkers (i.e., alcoholics) who have been abstaining. Also, the study should be replicated in a different setting with a larger sample before we can have confidence these findings can be applied to individuals with alcohol use disorder seeking moderation-focused treatment more generally.

Moderation of your drug and alcohol use generally will only work if you have some control over your drug use and still have a strong self control. If you don’t have enough self control to stop when you need to, then moderation generally will devolve into unrestricted use. Moderation can be a more difficult approach than abstinence because you have to work in the grey area between unrestricted use and stopping completely. If you want to succeed at moderation, then self control and having clear and strict rules for yourself around your use are essential. What qualifies as “serious” definitely depends on the person, but I have compiled a list below of some common consequences of drugs and alcohol to help you gauge whether or not moderation or abstinence could be appropriate. Whether or not moderation would work for you often depends on how serious the consequences are that you are experiencing because of your use. If you are having life threatening, relationship ending or otherwise serious consequences that you need to get a handle on immediately, then perhaps abstinence is the only route for you.

Posted by: Meredith Goodwin